This is another question that I been asked on my Facebook page. (barredtalk) What are the kind of things would you need going into prison that first night? I will keep this straight-forward & legal…


Prisons have different rules on what you can have, Infact some jails and officers just make their own mind up. They do have some policies & procedures to follow however, they use the old tactic…(If your face fits) This includes what can get sent in and so on. The only antidote is to expect to be annoyed… The reality is, don’t ask for nothing coz, your not getting nothing. If you enter reception and prison with that mentality, there is a chance you’ll have it half beaten…

Drop-in points, visits, post. (for friends or relatives to bring stuff for you). Without any prior notice it will be closed on random days; there may or may not be size limits; Posted in parcels will no-doubt be returned as the right paperwork is not enclosed. They will claim that something worth £2 is a “valuable item” because, that is their category and therefore not allow it; They will say that a belt is allowed in and then not allow it; A pillow or quilt cover with a clearly visible fireproof label will somehow not meet regulations. However, the below may help: As strange as these may sound, it is the only bit of advice that I can really think of… Without driving you insane…

Simple things like, wear a cheap watch to court, one that you are happy to have in prison. You should be allowed to keep it on and it’s a complete pain getting hold of one in some prisons. Not knowing the time may well start to drive you a little crazy inside, even though in bang-up, for the most part, it doesn’t matter.

Take everything you can in – they will go through your property and what you can’t keep you will get back at the end (very little ever goes missing from “property”) Which is strange, as its full of theives but, it’s a capital offence for another to nick your stuff. (Another post)

What to take into prison: All toiletries, some they may not let you have because, (your face don’t fit) you can buy it on “canteen” However, anything they do let you have will save you money on canteen and you can use it for something else. Pens and pencils crucial, Stamps, writing pad, envelopes, ruler, It varies what sorts are allowed in what prisons, so have a variety. As with above, you can buy them but, better to save the money. Furthermore, you will have to wait weeks till you get all your stuff from the prison canteen, as you are only allowed certain amount of money to spend each week.

Underwear, T-shirts, socks, boxers. Take several sets (seven or eight of each) Books as many as you can if you like reading. Again they may not let you because you can buy, but most officers will be fine with this)
A radio/alarm clock.Comfortable shoes, assuming you wear smart shoes to court. Trainers in a bag is a good idea with all your other stuff.
Cash about £100. That will give you a few weeks canteen money untill you get sorted and get your friends & Family.

If you are going to move from bang-up to a Cat D. (This means a closed prison to an open prison) it becomes useful to have things like CDs, stereo, plenty of clothes, knife fork, spoon, bedding, towel, etc. But, these are all things with low to zero probability of being allowed in a Cat B, (closed jail). Therefore, if you are sure that someone on the outside can bring those to the first Cat D visit, or send them in, don’t stress about taking them to prison – it will just be more stuff to deal with on the day of sentencing and more to go through with the officer at reception who want be happy that you’ve got loads of property.

It is useful to have one set of normal clothes though (in addition to the suit or whatever you wear to court) to be able to wear in the days between arriving at Cat D and getting your first visit. Tracksuits are an all round comfortable & wearable attire.

My packing list would include the following,

    • A decent sized holdall (to bring your possessions in and out of jail). It will usually be kept in storage while you are inside unless you get to a Cat-D (open prison).
    • Two pairs of comfortable trainers (absolutely essential, keep one pair for the gym)
    • At least one pair of comfortable jeans (not black) with a belt (small buckle)
    • A couple of pairs of trackie bottoms (not black)
    • A couple of polo shirts (not black)
    • A couple of warm jumpers or sweatshirts (not black, no hoods)
    • A fleece (not black, unlined, no padding or quilting, no hood)
    • A beanie-style hat (not black, unlined) – especially if you’ll be in the nick for the winter
    • A pair of gloves (not black, unlined)
    • Two pairs of gym shorts (also good for in-cell wear, even if you don’t go to the gym)
    • A couple of gym vests or t-shirts (not black)
    • 10 pairs of boxers or pants
    • 10 pairs of new socks
    • A dressing gown (optional, but absolutely useful – makes you feel human. No hood)
    • A couple of pairs of pyjama bottoms (no-one under 70 wears pyjama tops in the nick)
    • A couple of medium size shower towels (not black and white ones will soon be grey)
    • A face flannel
    • A tea towel or two (you’ll be doing your own washing up in your cell)
    • A pair of good quality shower flip-flops (essential – prison showers can be very grubby)
    • A see-through plastic wash-kit bag with your own toothbrush, razor and spare blades, nail-clippers (no metal files – for obvious reasons)
    • A couple of pairs of foam earplugs (not silicon ones – get a good sleep even if your pad-mate snores like a freight train)
    • A mains or battery razor (if you don’t wet shave), not rechargeable or with the 2-pin travel adapter type plug
    • A set of mains or battery (not rechargeable) hair clippers – no scissors
    • A small battery or mains (not rechargeable) radio/CD player with headphones (in-the-ear type) – no Short Wave allowed, nor any item that has a USB port (because of recharging illicit mobile phones)
    • A small battery alarm clock (not digital)
    • A diary and a clear plastic pen
    • An address/telephone number book
    • A few family photos
    • Copies of any relevant vocational qualifications (can help to get a decent job in some nicks)
    • Wear any jewellery you want to keep in the nick: watch, wedding ring, neck chain etc)

In all the circumstances, prison has a currency like any other community. Therefore, anything can be exchanged for anything else. A teabag for a spoonful of sugar. A t-shirt for a pair of sock ect…You get my drift. If you are short of something or you want to know something, prisons are full of answers….

Maybe not the right one, but, someone will know…

Best wishes!!!


  1. Thanks for this. V helpful. Here is a question for you. You go to court, and are not expecting to be released, so you are totally unprepared for life “on the out” again. You are released on a community order. No clothes except the ones you are in, no money, no address. What do you do?

  2. WOW!!! This is a massive question and a whole new post. However, for the layperson that has no knowledge of the Criminal Justice System. Putting in the question that, the person was released on a ‘Community Order’, is a bit mis-leading to the lay-person. As this does not mean that the person has been released with a structured Care & Action plan. It just means, the person was released from the courthouse. However, the person has no fixed address, no money, no medication, clothes and not even the basic idea of direction. This is why we have such a revolving door within the process of prisoners re-offending. What chance would that person really have? It’s solid action and structure that people need on release from court or prison. NOT, a lip service. not words like Community Order, Licence, ect. These people need the basics of life, first and foremost…

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