Human rights in prison؟
Prisoners’ rights and complaining about a prison
A prisoner has fewer rights than someone who has not broken the law, but all prisoners have basic legal rights on how they’re treated. Find out what rights a prisoner has and how they, or someone they know, can complain about their treatment while in prison.
Human rights in prison
Prisoners have basic rights that can't be taken away from them
Prisoners have basic legal rights that can’t be taken away from them. These include:
- the right to food and water
- protection from bullying, violence and racial harassment
- being able to get in contact with a solicitor
Prisoners are given a leaflet about their rights when they arrive at prison.
You can read more about human and equality rights using the links below.
A prisoner’s rights to contact a solicitor
A prisoner has the right to see a solicitor. The meeting takes place within the sight of a prison officer but out of their hearing range.
Prisoners also have the right to phone or write to a solicitor.
Telephone conversations and letters between the prisoner and their solicitor are private.
Violence or bullying in prison
Prisoners have the right to feel safe. Prisoners who are being bullied, threatened or attacked should tell prison staff straight away.
They can do this in confidence (privately).
Disabled prisoners and rights
Prisons must follow a law called the Disability Discrimination Act. This protects all disabled people - including disabled prisoners and prisoners with a mental health condition.
When a prisoner first arrives at prison they are asked about the support they need and what ‘reasonable adjustments’ the prison can make.
Reasonable adjustments help disabled prisoners to use prison facilities and services, by providing things like:
- handrails in the prison cell
- wheelchair ramps
- vibrating alarm clocks for prisoners who are deaf or hard of hearing
Practising a faith or religion in prison
Every prison has ‘chaplaincy’ staff to help prisoners practise their faith or religion. Staff make sure there’s a place where prisoners can go for prayers or religious meetings. All prisons must:
- respect dates and times for prayer, religious services and festivals
- provide vegetarian, Halal and Kosher food
Rights to healthcare
A prisoner has the right to the same healthcare as anyone outside of prison. All prisons have healthcare teams to look after prisoners and many prisons have hospitals.
Help for prisoners who don’t speak English
Prisoners who don’t speak English have the right to use interpreting and translation services.
Prisons can also give English classes.
Prison staff can explain how a prisoner can arrange services and educational courses.
Information on prison life should be available in a number of languages within the prison.
A prisoner’s right to see their prison records
Prisons keep information on each prisoner, including:
- medical records
- the progress they have made - for example, an improvement in their behaviour
- the work, training or education they have done in prison
A prisoner can ask for a copy of this information for £10. They need to fill out a ‘Subject Access Request Form’.
Prison staff can explain how a prisoner can arrange this.
Complaining about treatment in prison
There are different ways someone can complain about their treatment in prison.
Complaining to prison staff or an Independent Monitoring Board
A prisoner can complain by:
- speaking informally to a member of prison staff - most problems are dealt with this way
- speaking to a member of the Independent Monitoring Board - if the problem is not sorted out informally
- making a written complaint - complaint forms are available in the prison
The Independent Monitoring Board is separate from the Prison Service and is made up of members of the public. It monitors (‘checks up on’) how local prisons are run.
The Prisons and Probation Ombudsman
If the prisoner is still unhappy at the end of the complaints process, they can contact the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO).
The PPO is independent from the Prison Service. The Ombudsman can only investigate a complaint after the internal process (as detailed above) has been completed and where the complaint has not been solved.
The PPO is allowed to see Prison Service information about the prisoner. For medical records, the prisoner must give their permission for the PPO to see them.