Prison Rules apply to every prison but the governor may have local rules as well.
When you break Prison Rules it is called an offence. These offences are listed in Prison Rule 51 and Young Offender Institution Rule 55.
You can be charged for an offence and given a punishment. This happens through the adjudications system which we describe below.
The Prison Rules can be difficult to understand. More information can be found in PSI 05/2018 Prisoner Discipline Procedures. There should be a copy this in the library.
If you do any of the things below, it means you have broken Prison Rules and committed an offence.
Behaving in a way that could offend, threaten or hurt someone else
- If you offend or hit anyone or get into a fight with anyone.
- If you offend anyone or hit them because of their race
- If you say anything or do anything that could upset, threaten or frighten anyone else. And if you do this because of someone’s race.
- If you keep someone away from other people, if they do not want this. For example, if you lock them up somewhere.
- If you behave in a way that could put someone else in danger or damage their health.
- If you are rude to anyone who works at the prison or young offender institution or anyone who is visiting there.
Stopping prison staff from doing their jobs
- If you stop anyone who works in the prison from getting where they need to go in the prison. For example by building a barricade to stop someone coming into your cell.
- If you stop anyone who works at the prison from doing their job.
Escaping from prison
- If you escape from prison or custody. For example, if you run away from an escort.
- If you do not come back when you have been allowed out of prison for a short time. This is called absconding.
Drugs and alcohol
- If you are ordered to have your urine tested and it shows you have taken any drug you are not allowed to take, even if you have taken it while you were out of prison for a short time.
- If you choose to drink alcohol or are found to be drunk after drinking alcohol.
Causing damage to the prison or young offender institution
- If you set fire to any part of the building or anything in it.
- If you damage or destroy any part of the building or anything in it that is not yours.
- If you put up anything on the walls or write or draw anything that could upset, threaten or frighten anyone.
Things you can and cannot have
- If you have something you should not have. For example, a mobile phone, a knife or drugs.
- If you have more of something than you are allowed to have.
- If you accept something you are not allowed to have from someone who visits you.
- If you sell or give something to a person that you are not allowed to have.
- If you sell or give a person something only you can have.
- If you take or steal anything that is not yours from another person or from the prison.
Being in a place in the prison you should not be
- If you leave a place you should be in.
- If you go to a place you should not go to.
Not doing what prison staff tell you to do
- If you are asked to do work and you do not do it properly or at all.
- If you do not follow an order or a rule that you should follow.
- If you break any of the prison rules or try to help someone else to.
Breaking the rules while you are out of prison for a short time
- If you break the rules if you are let out of prison for a short time, for example if you are Released on Temporary Licence (ROTL).
More information about offences, including how it should be written on the nicking sheet, can be found in Annex B of PSI 05/2018 Prisoner Discipline Procedures.
What happens if I break prison rules?
- You will be put on report. This means a prison officer will tell you that they think you have committed an offence and what offence they think you have committed. They should tell you straight away, or within 48 hours.
They will give you two forms:
- DIS 1 form – also called a ‘nicking sheet’. This tells you about the offence the prison officer thinks you have committed. The offence you are accused of is also called a charge. You must say if you do not understand what is written on this form.
- DIS 2 form. This tells you what will happen at the hearing.
On this form you can write a statement about what you think happened. Do this on the back of the form. Ask for more paper if you need it
Write the name of any witnesses you want to come to the hearing, if you know who they are at this stage. You can say at the hearing who you want your witnesses to be if you prefer.
- You must go to a hearing, also called an adjudication. This is where you and prison staff talk about the offence and what you all think happened. The hearing will be run either by the governor or by someone from outside the prison called an independent adjudicator.
- At the hearing, you have to say whether you are guilty or not guilty of the offence.
- The governor or the independent adjudicator will decide if you are guilty or not guilty of the offence. They will do this after listening to you and other people who know about what happened.
- If you are found guilty, you will be given a punishment. If you are found not guilty, nothing more will happen
What happens before the hearing?
- The hearing will usually happen the day after you are put on report (unless it is a Sunday or a Public Holiday).
- You should have at least 2 hours to get ready for the hearing.
- You may have your health checked by a doctor or nurse before the hearing to make sure you are well enough to go to the hearing.
- You may be kept apart from other prisoners until your hearing
What to do before the hearing
- Think about what you want to say at the hearing.
- Read form DIS2. On this form you can write a statement about what you think happened. Ask for more paper if you need it
- Think about whether anyone else saw what happened. They could be a witness for you at the hearing.
- Ask prison staff for all copies of paperwork relating to the charge.
- It may be useful for you to look at PSI 05/2018 Prisoner Discipline Procedures.. There should be a copy of it in the prison library. Ask to see a copy of it if you cannot get to the library.
- You could ask for the hearing to be put back to a later date if you do not get to see PSI 05/2018 before your hearing.
- If you find it difficult to read or write, or do not understand something then ask a prison officer or your solicitor for help.
The Hearing / Adjudication
- You will have to go to a prison hearing to talk about the offence. Hearings are also called ‘adjudications’.
- The hearing will usually happen the day after prison staff tells you about the offence they think you have committed.
- The hearing will be run by either a governor or a district judge from outside the prison (called an independent adjudicator).
- You will have a chance to say what you think happened.
- You can also get witnesses to come and talk at the hearing.
- You may be able to get some other people to help you. For example, a solicitor or someone called a McKenzie friend. See below for other help you can get at a hearing.
- Speak to a prison officer or your solicitor if you do not understand what is happening or need to ask questions.
What will happen at the hearing?
1. The governor will check:
- if you are well enough to take part
- the forms have been completed properly and the time limits have been followed
- you have got forms DIS1 and DIS2
- you understand why you are at the hearing and what will happen
- you have had enough time to get ready for the hearing. For example, to think about what you want to say.
- if you want any help, like legal advice or an interpreter
- if you have a written staement for the hearing
2. Someone will read out the charge. The charge is the offence the prison staff think you have committed.
3. You will be asked to say whether you are guilty or not guilty of the offence.
If you plead guilty
- The prison officer who put you on report will read out a statement about what happened.
- You then have to say what you think about this. You can ask also questions.
- Say if you do not agree with what the prison officer has said. You can also ask to call witnesses if you do not agree with what the prison officer has said. The governor must consider anything you say you do not agree with.
- The governor may decide that the facts are right and that there is nothing more to consider. If so, he or she will ask you if you want to make a plea in mitigation. This is where you can tell the governor anything you think would make your offence look less serious.
- A member of prison staff will then read out information about how you have behaved since you came to prison. And about any hearings you have had before. You can then say what you think about the information they have read out.
- The governor will then tell you what your punishment is. Then you will be given a copy of a form that tells you what your punishment is. The form is called DIS7.
- At any point, if the governor thinks your offence is serious enough for you to get extra days, they will ask an independent adjudicator to look at your case. You may have to wait up to 28 days to see the independent adjudicator.
If you plead not guilty, or if you are not sure how to plead
- The prison officer who put you on report will read out a statement about what they think happened.
- You can say what you think about this or ask any questions.
- The governor will ask the prison officer some questions. They may also ask to hear from some witnesses.
- You and the governor can ask the witnesses questions.
- Then you will be asked to say what you think about the charge (what prison staff think you have done) and the evidence they have given.
- You can call witnesses to speak in your defence if you want to (unless the governor thinks there is a very good reason why not).
- You, the prison officer and the governor can ask the witnesses questions.
- You will be able to say the main reasons why you think you are not guilty.
- The governor will then tell you the decision he or she has made. This is called the verdict. The governor must be very sure that you have committed the offence before he or she finds you guilty.
- If you are found guilty, the governor will tell you what your punishment is. The governor will then give you a copy of a form that tells you what your punishment is. The form is called Form 256D.
- At any point, if the governor thinks your offence is serious enough for you to get extra days, they will ask an independent adjudicator to look at your case.
Other help you can get at the hearing
You may be able to get these types of help at your hearing
- legal advice
- legal representation (a solicitor comes to the hearing to represent you)
- a friend or adviser to come along (this person is called a McKenzie friend). This person can come and take notes for you and give you advice. But they cannot represent you and can only talk if the governor says it is ok. Your McKenzie friend could be someone like the chaplain, a prison officer or another prisoner.
If the hearing is run by a governor
You can get legal advice. This could be by telephone, letter or at a visit with your solicitor.
You cannot get legal representation, unless the governor says you can have it because of things like:
- how serious the offence is and the punishment you could get
- possible questions about the law that may come up
- how much you understand about what is happening
- things that may slow the case down or cause any problems. For example, if you have had problems getting your defence ready because you have been kept apart from other prisoners.
You cannot usually have a McKenzie friend or an advisor at this type of hearing. But you may be able to have a McKenzie friend or advisor if you do not understand what is happening, the case is very difficult or the governor thinks it is fair to allow this.
If the hearing is run by an independent adjudicator (a district judge)
- You can always get legal representation (a solicitor comes to represent you).
- The governor or legal services officer can help you with any problems you have getting legal representation.
The punishments you could get are included in Prison Rule 55 & 55A and Young Offender Rule 60 & 60A.They are also listed in Annex B of PSI 05/2018.
The punishment you get depends on how serious the offence is.
The prison may get the police involved if they think the offence is serious.
If you commit more than 1 offence you can be punished for each offence. The punishments may run one after the other.
Any punishment apart from a caution can be suspended for up to 6 months. This means your punishment may start if you commit another offence in that time.
A governor can give you any punishment apart from extra days. An independent adjudicator (a district judge) is the only person who can give you extra days, as well as any of the other punishments.
The adjudicator should think about the following things when deciding which punishment you should get:
- The circumstances and seriousness of the offence
- The effect on victims
- The impact any punishment would have on you, including to your health or welfare
- Any risks included in an open ACCT or an ACCT that has been closed in the last 3 months
- Your age
- Your behaviour in custody
- How long until you are released
- The effect of the offence on the order of the prison
- Whether you have pled guilty or not guilty
- If you have made a plea in mitigation (this is where you tell them anything you think would make your offence look less serious)
Here is a list of punishments you could get for committing an offence
- You could get a caution.
- Your privileges (like having a TV in your cell) could be taken away from you for up to 42 days. Or up to 21 days for young offenders.
- Up to 84 days’ worth of any money you earn could be stopped. Or up to 42 days’ for young offenders. But you will get enough money to buy stamps and make phone calls to keep in touch with your family
- You could be locked in a cell by yourself away from other prisoners for up to 35 days. Or for up to 16 days for young offenders over 18. This is called cellular confinement. You will have a check first by a doctor or nurse to make sure you are well enough to do this.
- You could be stopped from doing work with other prisoners for up to 21 days.
- If you are on remand, your privileges could be taken away.
- You could be taken away from the prison wing or living unit for 28 days. Or for up to 21 days for young offenders.
- You could get extra days in prison. There is more information about this below.
- You could be stopped from taking part in activities for up to 21 days.
- You could have to do 2 hours extra work a day for up to 21 days.
If the offence is serious enough, you may be given as many as 42 extra days in prison as well as any of the other punishments.
Extra days are not part of your sentence but you will spend the extra time in prison.
Only independent adjudicators (they are district judges) can give you extra days.
If you are on remand, you will serve your extra days only if you are convicted and given a sentence.
You will not be given extra days if you are a life sentence prisoner, an imprisonment for public protection prisoner (IPP), are a civil prisoner, or a foreign national being held in prison while your immigration is sorted out.
Can I appeal?
If you think the hearing was done in the wrong way or your punishment was too harsh you may be able to appeal.
If your hearing was run by a governor
- Ask a prisoner officer on your wing for a form called form DIS8.
- Fill in the form and send it to the governor within 6 weeks of the hearing.
- Someone called the Deputy Director of Custody (DDC) will decide about your case.
- If the DDC thinks your hearing was wrong, they can change the fact that you were found guilty or change the punishment.
If your hearing was run by an independent adjudicator
- Ask a prisoner officer on your wing for a form called form IA4.
- Fill in the form and send it to the governor within 14 days of the hearing.
- Your paper will be sent to a judge called the senior district judge to look at. The judge is from Westminster Magistrates’ Court.
- The senior district judge can decide to change your punishment. But they cannot change the fact you were found guilty.
If you are still not happy after this
You can ask someone called the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman to look at your case. The Ombudsman does not work for the prison. Their job is to look at complaints by prisoners about prison life.
- The ombudsman will try to sort out the situation between you and the governor first.
- If this does not work, the ombudsman will write a report about what they think should happen.
- You will not be able to have your hearing again. But the ombudsman can suggest that the prison changes the fact you were found guilty or the punishment you got.
Write to the ombudsman at
Prisons and Probation Ombudsman
10 South Colonnade,
London E14 4PU
or call 020 7633 4100. This number is already on your PIN
You could ask a judge to look at your case. It is a good idea to speak to your solicitor for advice on this.
You may not be able to get a judge to look at your case. It may be best to make a complaint in the ways described above first.
There is more information in Prisoner’s Advice Service information sheet ‘Judicial Review’
Getting extra days back
- You can apply to get some of the extra days back you were given.
- You can normally apply to get up to half of the days back.
- You can apply to get the extra days back 6 months after you were last found guilty of committing an offence. Or 6 months after the last time you applied to get the extra days back.
- If you are a young offender, you can apply 4 months after.
How do I apply to get extra days back?
Speak to a member of staff on your wing. The member of staff will check to see if you may be able to get the extra days back.
You will then be asked to put something in writing to say why you think you should get your extra days back.
A member of staff on your wing will then write a report about you and send it to the governor. They will also send information about any offences you have committed with the report.
You will probably not get all the days back. But you may be able to apply again later to get more back.