The first 24 hours in prison

Each year a large number of people come into contact with the prison system: in the three months between July and September 2014, more than 26,000 people entered the prison estate for the first time after being remanded in custody by the courts. As the start of the journey through a prison or YOI, the reception and subsequent induction process is extremely important.

Life in prison: The first 24 hours in prison‘ is a new paper from HM Inspectorate of Prisons that summarises literature surrounding reception and the first 24 hours in prison. It draws on evidence from recent inspections of local prisons undertaken by HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMI Prisons) and survey data from inspection reports published between 1 April 2014 and 31 March 2015.

An individual can arrive at a prison or YOI after being remanded in custody by the courts, or after being transferred from another prison or YOI after sentencing. All prisoners will experience imprisonment at a local prison at some point during their detention. Local prisons are very busy and have a very large number of receptions each year; our inspection of HMP Pentonville (2015), found that it had, on average, 100 movements to or from court or other prisons every day and an average of 90 new prisoners a week. In comparison a training prison receives, on average, 15 new prisoners a week.

Arrival at a prison can be a daunting experience, even for those who have been in prison before. Those experiencing prison for the first time are particularly likely to be distressed and fearful, so it is important that they are given adequate support and reassurance. Population pressures may lead to prisoners being displaced from their local area and sent away from their support networks and families, increasing the importance of enhanced support from staff. Although the first 24 hours in prison can be extremely stressful for some individuals, anxiety can be reduced by ‘respectful treatment from officers, timely and accessible information, and opportunities to resolve urgent practical problems’.