Daily life

All prisoners are entitled to spend at least one hour a day in the open air


The amount of time spent outdoors varies from one facility to another. It is often about 30 minutes, despite the rule being one hour (Prison Rule 30). The administration uses weather conditions and the need for order and discipline to limit time spent outdoors.1

The Inspectorate of Prisons observed this limited period and deplored the fact that inmates have to choose between this exercise and other necessities (shower, phone call, etc.). They noted that many outside excercise areas remained austere, dirty and uninviting.2

  1. Prison Reform Trust Regime and time out of cellule

  2. Chief Inspector of Prisons, “Annual Report 2017-18”, July 2018, p. 39. 

  • HM Inspectorate of Prisons published its annual report for the period from 1 April 2021 to 31 March 2022. The Inspector was struck by the time spent by prisoners in their cells: Most of them are only allowed to leave their cells for 30 minutes per day. He noted that restrictions related to the Covid-19 pandemic remained in place in prisons even after they were lifted on the outside.

    / HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for England and Wales
  • Inmates at Strangeways Category A men’s prison in Manchester were confined to their cells from 6-10 June. They told their families that they were not permitted to leave their cells, play sports or bathe. Food was left at their door. Visits were suspended. However, they were able to contact relatives by means of a telephone in the cell. Some inmates reported that the confinement lasted more than four days and that many cells were searched. The prison administration justified the lock-down as a result of work in the prison. The Ministry of Justice later claimed that the prison was closed due to an operation to dismantle a smuggling ring.

    / Manchester Evening News

The prison service offers activities to prisoners


All prisoners are assessed for their skills development needs upon arrival. These are recorded in an “Individual Learning Plan” (ILP)“. This plan is available to the prison service and external providers. Access to employment, training and skills development is subject to the prison service’s proposals, the providers’ offer and the prison regime.

The activities usually offered are as follows:

  • vocational training and skills development
  • sport activities
  • cultural and artistic activities
  • rehabilitation programmes
  • work1

  1. Department of Justice, PSI 03/2012 on activities assignment

  • Figures from the Ministry of Justice show that between January and March 2022, 2,297 prisoners (1 in 35) joined an accredited programme to decrease their risk of re-offending. The number of people who participate in programmes has been decreasing for a long time. Over 19,000 prisoners began courses between 2010 and 2011, but this number dropped 70% in the following decade, even before the Covid-19 pandemic began.

    520 prisoners began programmes against violence between 2021 and 2022 (vs 1,592 in 2019-2020); 1,000 against general offending (vs 2,593); 536 against sexual offending (vs 1,133); and 125 against domestic violence (vs 210).

    / InsideTime
  • On 23 November 2022, the Ministry of Justice declared that only 18 of the country’s 122 prisons were offering a full regime of activities and services. This is seemingly due to staff shortages, as there are not enough prison officers to enable prisoners to move around safely and to escort them to workshops and classrooms. In total, 61 prisons are offering the majority of activities and services, 42 offer “reduced but sustainable” activities and services, and one prison is providing only basic activities and services, a decision considered unsustainable in the long term.

    / InsideTime
  • The charity organisation Fine Cell Work teaches prisoners to sew and embroider. At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the organisation sent more than 2,000 products to prisons, giving prisoners who were locked up for over 23 hours per day the opportunity to practice needlework. The charity sells the pieces crafted by prisoners on its website and sends them part of the proceeds. The organisation has worked with prisoners since 2017, and the re-offending rate among the programme’s participants is 2%, compared with the national average of 46%.

    / The Guardian
  • The Inspectorate of Prisons considered access to education and work at Forest Bank prison to be “inadequate”. It noted a lack of purposeful activity for inmates. Charlie Taylor, head of the HM Inspectorate of Prisons, however, saw progress and acknowledged the difficulties faced by the facility during the COVID-19 pandemic. He defined the facility as “a prison in transition” and hailed their actions as “encouraging”. The Inspectorate’s conclusions followed a surprise inspection in February 2022.

    / HM Inspectorate of Prisons
  • HM Inspectorate of Prisons believed that the recovery of prisons from the COVID-19 pandemic had been long and uneven. The pandemic resulted in a sharp reduction in outside contact, activities, and training, and the resumption of these services had been slow for the majority of prisons. Their suspension had a substantial impact on the well-being, mental health and rehabilitation of prisoners. Charlie Taylor, HM chief inspector of prisons, stated that there would be a “price to pay” for the boredom, lack of activity and disruption of family ties caused by the pandemic.

    / Criminal Justice Joint Inspection

There are designated places for physical activities and sports


Prisoners under the age of 21 must be given at least two hours of physical activity per week (Rule 41 for Juvenile Institutions). Prisoners over the age of 21 have to be provided with at least one hour (Prison Rule 29).

Certain clubs and groups support prisoners in various ways:

  • Chelsea Football Club and England Rugby Union, at Portland prison (18-21 year olds)
  • Street Soccer Academy (street football), at Forest Bank prison (18-21 year olds and adults)
  • Airborne Initiative, outside external programme at Feltham, Brinsford, Cookham Wood, Werrington, Guys Marsh and Berwyn prisons (18-21 year olds)
  • Get Onside, Saracens rugby club programme and Fulham football club at Feltham prison (18-21 year olds)
  • Urban Stars South Gloucestershire, at Ashfield prison (18 and under)1

There are designated places for cultural activities


Cultural and artistic activities vary from prison to prison. Workshops, events, performances and film screenings are offered by external individuals and organisations.

Main activities:

Cultural activities and entertainment organised by prison libraries, such as Storybook Dads, which is an activity intended to promote the relationship between fathers and their children.These men record stories that they intend for their childen.1

  1. HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, “Annual Report 2017-2018“

Prisoners are not involved in choosing activities. Management is responsible for this and it involves different local stakeholders. The main aim is to enable prisoners to have a stable job when they leave. The range of activities and the number of beneficiaries are subject to an agreement (Service Level Agreement) between prisons and service providers.1

  1. Department of Justice, PSI 03/2012 on activities assignment

Prison staff inform the prison population about the activities offered, the number of places available and the registration procedure. They are responsible for assigning each interested prisoner to a particular type of activity. They take into account individual needs, the risks involved and the sentence execution plan, which is always a priority. Prisoners can request a change of activities and be placed on a waiting list. The waiting time is communicated to them. They are notified of the decision in writing (PSI 03/2012).

Prison facilities have a library



Prisoners must be allowed to go there once a week.1

  1. National Offender Management Service and Prison Reform Trust,“Information book for prisoners with a disability“, p. 20. 

Work is compulsory


Refusal to work is a disciplinary offense. It may affect the person’s IEP status (incentives and privileges).

Work is optional for those pending trial. In case of refusal, no other position will be offered to them.

All prisoners are allowed to work


Labour as a punitive measure is prohibited


Employment opportunities are low, particularly for defendants. Most frequent opportunities are in industrial manufacturing, agriculture and gardening. General prison services (maintenance, kitchen… ) are also a source of employment.1

  1. Nicola Padfield & Nancy Loucks, “Le système pénitentiaire anglais et gallois” (The English and Welsh prison system), in J. Céré and C. E. Japiassú (éds.), Les systèmes pénitentiaires dans le monde (Prison systems in the world), 2018, p. 34. 

Prisons assign work stations according to the IEP classification of the person. The most motivating and best-paid positions are offered to the highest ranked prisoners first. [^ rank] Jobs usually come from external companies or associations. The prison administration and these companies are bound by contracts.

List of main activites proposed:

  • assembly and packaging
  • recycling
  • laundry
  • woodwork
  • signage
  • textile
  • printing
  • agriculture
  • carpentry
  • technical work1

  1. Prisoners’ Advice Service, “Information Sheet: Work & Pay”, June 2018, p. 1. 

Prisoners do not benefit from an employment contract.

Maximum daily/weekly working hours are set, including at least one day of rest


“Constructive activities” include work and are limited to ten hours per day.1

  1. Prisoners’ Advice Service, “Information Sheet: Work & Pay”, June 2018, p. 1. 

Prisoners are paid for their work


Salaries are

much lower than the usual salaries.

The minimum weekly wage for a prisoner is £ 4 (approximately $ 5.2) per week).1 It is established by the circulaire PSO 4460. The average salary is £7. Prisoners in an educational programme also receive an allowance.2

Earnings in excess of £20 per week are taxable (Prisoners’ Earnings Act, which came into force in 2011). Most prisoners are paid eight to ten pounds per week.3

  1. Prisoners’ Advice Service, “Information Sheet: Work & Pay”, June 2018, p. 1. 

  2. Nicola Padfield & Nancy Loucks, “Le système pénitentiaire anglais et gallois” (The English and Welsh prison system), in J. Céré and C. E. Japiassú (éds.), Les systèmes pénitentiaires dans le monde (Prison systems in the world), 2018, p. 34. 

  3. Prisoners’ Advice Service, “Information Sheet: Work & Pay”, June 2018, p. 1-2. 

Prisoners are paid on a piecework basis


Their income is subject to social contributions


Health and safety standards applicable outside are respected in prison


Authority(ies) in charge of education and vocational training

Her Majesty’s Prison & Probation Service (HMPPS)

Prisoners enrolled in educational training


According to a report published by Ofsted, the education and training system in the country’s prisons is inadequate for the most part. The needs of prisoners for the 2018-2019 period were poorly evaluated and little credit was given to their qualifications. The report points out that the percentage of people taking part in education programmes is low and they are not given any certificates attesting the skills learned. A new report, published in December 2020, which evaluated the 2019-2020 period, noted a few improvements such as in program attendance.

Vocational education and / or training can be delegated to external bodies. Prisoner’s Education Trust (PET), a charitable organisation, has been offering educational programs since 1989. Every year it provides some 3,000 prisoners with distance training, arts and recreation supplies, counselling, and other services.

Education is provided

in all the facilities

Education is available for all prisoners


The training offered usually includes courses in mathematics, reading, English, business and arts education.

  • The House of Commons Education Select Committee released a report that emphasised the importance of education in prison. The report lamented the reduction in educational participation rates, a 90% drop between 2010/11 and 2017/18. The report called the system “clunky, chaotic and disjointed” and said it did not value education as a key to rehabilitation. Among its recommendations, the Committee called for the use of laptops for inmates pursuing education. The goal of this measure was to find a solution to the digital divide between the general and prison populations, impacting inmates’ ability to rehabilitate. The report also pointed out that over 30% of inmates had learning disabilities. Only 25 qualified Special Educational Needs Co-ordinators(SENCo) were available to serve all public prisons, amounting to 1 educator for every 4 facilities. The Committee recommended the adoption of digital educational passports that would allow access to inmate records to better understand their needs thus allowing educators to tailor the educational strategy to the individual.

    / UK Parliament

The prison service implements measures to fight illiteracy


The basic notions of reading, writing and arithmetic are assessed at the beginning of the sentence. The administration is required to address any deficiencies.1 Many libraries host literacy activities.2

  1. Department of Justice, PSI 06/2012 on employment, training and skills development for prisoners 

  2. Chief Inspector of Prisons, “Annual Report 2017-18”, July 2018, p. 39 . 

Prisoners are allowed to pass diplomas and entry examinations


Two universities offered prisoners the possibility of taking free online courses starting in 2022. They would be able to obtain a diploma on completing their course. These modules would cover mainly law and criminology. It was an initiative of DWRM, an organisation working to promote access to higher learning for people deprived of liberty1.

Vocational training is provided


Prison administrations provide professional training and support for teachers.1 The training courses usually offered include plumbing, hairdressing, masonry, bicycle mechanics…

  1. Chief Inspector of Prisons, “Annual Report 2017-18”, July 2018, p. 42 . 

  • The law now allows prisoners in open facilities to participate in apprenticeship programmes. These programmes combine work and training so prisoners can gain professional experience. The first prisoners to participate in apprenticeships began in October 2022. A prisoner at the open prison Thorn Cross began works as a chef de partie while taking a Level 2 apprenticeship in hospitality. Another prisoner began working for the construction company Kier.

    / InsideTime
  • Dominic Raab, Secretary of the Ministry of Justice, confirmed plans to expand The Clink Kitchens restaurant chain. The program would train inmates in hospitality and restaurant jobs. Six additional locations opened after 26 September 2021. The government confirmed that this number would reach 50 by 2023. Dominic Raab emphasised the importance of this type of program for the professional reintegration of prisoners.

    / Inside Time

Vocational training is available for all prisoners


The supply of vocational training is insufficient.

Distance courses are available


The PSI 3/2012 specifies the framework for higher education and distance education. Prisoners who wish to enroll in the Open University or other higher or distance education programs must pass security checks and obtain internal authorisation. Untried prisoners are not allowed to enrol.

Prisoners have access to computers

in some facilities

Prisoners in Guernsey Prison may have computers in their cells, not connected to the Internet.

Prisoners are allowed to keep themselves informed regularly on public affairs


Prisoners have access to a television

yes, by location (£1 per week)

Francesca Cooney points out that television in prison is the result of “double privilege”: good behaviour and sufficient income.

The prisoner must be classified at the IEP level Standard or Enhance (“improved”) (circulaire PSI 30/2013). They must pay one pound per week for the rental. This amount is divided among the occupants of the cell.1

Many prisoners with IEP Basic level or in solitary confinement or with low resources do not have access to it. Beneficiaries are financially responsible for the good condition of the television set.

  1. HM Inspectorate of Prisons, “Life in prison: Earning and spending money”, January 2016, p. 8 . 

Prisoners have access to a radio


Prisoners have access to the press


All prisoners are given at least one issue of Inside Time, the national prisoners’ newspaper. They can purchase magazines and newspapers of their choice.

The most represented religions are: Anglicanism (19%), Catholicism (18%), Islam (15%) and other Christian religions (12%). Each of the other faiths account for less than 1%.1

  1. British Religion in Numbers, “Religion in prison, 1975-2015”) (data supplied by the Department for Justice) 

Prisoners are free to practice their religion and follow their beliefs


The prison administration recognises the right of everyone to mention their religion and to practice it.1

Dedicated places of worship are available

in all facilities

Each facility is required to have places of worship and meditation. Their size must correspond to the number of practitioners. Their configuration must respect religious needs.1

There are chaplains in the prisons


The following religions usually have chaplains:

  • Anglican
  • Catholic
  • Methodist
  • Muslim
  • Buddhist
  • Jewish
  • Hindism
  • Sikhism

Any person practicing another religion may also call upon a representative.1

The prison service remunerates the chaplains

varies by facility.

Chaplains are whether employed (full-time and part-time), sessionally paid or unremunerated.1

Individuals or organisations from the outside are allowed to participate in prison activities


Authorisations for external actors to take part in prison activities are provided by

the governor

The main agencies authorised to enter prisons:

  • Community Chaplaincy Association brings together voluntary faith-based organisations. They offer sponsorship and support programmes for prisoners, former prisoners and their families.
  • Clean Break offers theatre-based education and vocational training programmes for women prisoners.
  • City & Guilds offers courses and training (construction, maths and English, hospitality, administration, hairdressing and beauty…). It operates in more than 120 facilities.1
  • Kainos Community, offers the “Challenge to Change “ program, certified by the prison administration. This one deals with “attitude and behaviour”. It is affiliated with the Langley House Trust.
  • PACT, a national charity, that provides material and psychological support to prisoners and their families
  • Prisoners Education Trust (PET), a charitable organisation,that offers distance education, advice, and arts and recreation supplies.
  • Prison Fellowship brings together prayer group volunteers. They visit and support prisoners,
  • RECOOP is intended for elderly prisoners. It provides them with basic social protection, the defence of their rights, but also services, information and advice,
  • Spurgeons accompanies children on visits to their detained parent. They work in seven prisons in London and run the “Invisible Walls” at Winchester prison.
  • The Society of Saint-Vincent de Paul (SSVP), is an international Catholic charity that visits prisoners and supports their families.

  1. Department of Justice, “quarterly statistics, England and Wales, January 2019”, p. 1-2 . 

Prisoners are allowed to make use of financial resources


Financial resources are accessible

on a registered account

The expenses of each prisoner are limited to a maximum of £25.50 per week. This limit depends on the status of the person (remanded or sentenced) and their behaviour. (IEP classification).1

  1. HM Inspectorate of Prisons, Life in prison: Earning and spending money, January 2016, p. 3 . 

Destitute prisoners receive financial or in-kind support


The prison administration contributes a weekly allowance to prisoners in the following cases :

  • unemployed: £2.50
  • short-term illness (up to 4 weeks): £2.50
  • long-term illness (more than 4 weeks): £3.25
  • pensioner/maternity leave or full care of child by mother: £3.25 -
  • outpatient hospitalisation: £4.35

Prisoners have the right of association


Such associations may not be legal entities.

Prisoners have the right to vote

yes, some prisoners

Persons convicted of a criminal offence do not have the right to vote.

A minority of people can vote remotely:

  • people in pre-trial detention
  • non sentenced persons
  • civil prisoners

The exercise of the right to vote implies registration on the electoral roll. The registration form must be sent to the relevant department at least 12 working days before the election. Voting is done in two ways:

  • by post: facilities receive ballot papers in advance of the elections. Each voter fills in his ballot paper and returns it. Any ballot paper that arrives after ten in the morning on the day of the vote is not counted.
  • by proxy: the prisoner authorises a third party to vote on their behalf. The proxy holder receives a receipt.1

  1. Website of the Prison Reform Trust, Voting whilst in prison 

No institution has its own written publication or radio or television programme involving prisoners.

Any prisoner may send their written contribution to Inside Time, the monthly national publication for prisoners. The editorial staff handles more than 8,500 letters from individuals and associations each year.

The National Prison Radio, run by the Prison Radio Association (PRA), broadcasts programmes by and for prisoners in over 100 facilities in England and Wales.

Prisoners may speak to the media. Communication is carried out by mail, telephone or visits. The rules governing such communication vary from one prison to another. The authorisation of the prison governor is required if the information provided by the prisoner is to be published or disseminated. The authorised conversation is monitored by a member of staff.