If this is your first time in prison and your sentence is on the short side ( you are unlikely to bother escaping) and you are not likely to cause trouble then, you are likely to get transferred to an open prison. While transfer to an open prison will seem like a very important event, unfortunately you will not know anything about when it will happen, and you will not have much control over the situation. The good news is that you don’t need to do anything. It will all go on behind the scenes by OMU (Offender Management Unit)  and civilian staff that work within the admin office, within the prison.

Firstly, the OMU (Offender Management Unit) in your prison will need to determine which category prison is appropriate for you (A, B, C or D cat, getting increasingly more open as you come down the alphabet) and they liaise with the rest of the prison service to find a suitable space. (This is called a risk assessment) When you do find out you are being transferred, it could be within a few days’ ”notice” or it could just be the night before, with a piece of paper slid under the door and at a time of night, there is no one to ask about it. Holding prisons, these are your local prisons in or near your ‘city centre; (Local Prisons) and these are generally pretty crowded and the efforts to move you is crucial to the flow of prison population. This will also be made without input from you.

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However, like all else in the prison system, it could take a while, which could be affected not just by the red-tape, bureaucracy and the availability of a spaces but, practical issues, such as whether there is any room on the weekly/fortnightly transport to that allocated prison/catchment area..  It could easily take up to four weeks, even longer in a lot of cases but, it doesn’t mean they’ve forgotten about you…

There is only one situation in which it is worth you having input into the process: Mainly, if the people that likely to visit you in prison, would have genuine difficulties traveling long distances to see you. In such cases you can apply to be in a certain part of the country. This is if your clever enough to catch your OMU officer on the landing and make a case they will remember, It may not help, you may just get sent where there is space but, if you have infirm/elderly close relatives who will suffer severe problems trying to visit, or young children, it is worth letting them know. You can also be proactive by writing apps out and being persistent. This is sometimes called for, as they are overwhelmed with prisoners asking to go here or there because, of this ”gang”  and/or that there will be trouble to go to a certain prison, as you know your enemies are there. The more ingenious the reasons why you can’t go here or there, the more likely you wont. (visa-versa)

Generally the OMU (Offender Management Unit) will start to look for space by looking at the nearest prisons to where you are at the time, so location can be particularly relevant if you have been convicted in a completely different part of the country to where your family is. Again, it may not help, but you can let OMU know by filling in an application form and stating a good argument as to why you need to be nearer to home.

Finally, and very importantly, when you get to an open prison from “bang-up” it can often feel like it’s worse than where you had just come from. This can be for several reasons, such as:
1)  You now feel exposed to far more prisoners at a given time, in a wider environment.
2) There is inevitably more “contraband” so the politics and currencies of the whole prison is more daunting
3) There are far fewer guards, so you feel more vulnerable and uncertain within the prison estate.
4) It is harder to figure out what is going on, as there is less minute-to-minute direction.

In all the circumstances, You need to find and sort things out for yourself. However, It may not happen to you but, it happens to a lot of people. Therefore, get ready for the culture shock that this change of living within a prison estate brings. This is what you would have looked forward to this move every day, since you’ve been away. This unease will pass after a couple of days, it does for everyone – open prisons are a much better experience and they are a fantastic way to help rebuild some family ties, as you have more opportunity and access to technology and town visits.

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