Know Your Rights - Your Rights As A Prisoner

The information on this website is designed to help you to better know and understand the rights someone has while they are in prison. This website is an interactive version of IPRT and ICCL's 'Know Your Rights - Your Rights as a Prisoner' booklet.

The booklet is available for download in different formats by clicking the orange button.

Please don’t be put off by the amount of information on this website. You can read and/or print just the sections that are important to you. We have done our best to write and present this information as clearly as we can, and we start below by explaining some of the key words used on this website.

You can always click back to the 'Key Words' section if you come across a word you do not understand. We used Plain English Guidelines to help as many people as possible understand the information.

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Religious and Spiritual Practice

Do I have a right to practise my religion or faith in prison?

You have the right to practise your religion or faith in prison (Rule 34) as long as the prison can still keep good order and safe and secure custody. This means you should be able to take part in relevant religious services in prison, or have access to relevant religious books or materials.

The chaplains are responsible for the spiritual care of all prisoners no matter what their religion or faith. Representatives of various religions or faiths can also attend the prisons on a visiting basis.

Do I have a right to receive spiritual or pastoral visits?

Yes. You can have visits from a spiritual or pastoral advisor with the permission of the Governor. (Rule 34) You should be allowed access to a representative of any denomination if a visit is orderly and safe.

What if there is no authorised chaplain?

If you belong to a religion for which there is no authorised chaplain at the prison, you may receive spiritual or pastoral visits from an advisor or representative of your religion. You must get the Governor’s written consent.

The supervising Prison Officer is allowed to see these visits, but they are not allowed to hear what you are saying.

If you have a visit from a spiritual advisor, it is not counted as an ordinary visit, so you are still allowed to receive the normal number of visits from your family or friends.

You should not be forced to take part in any religious service or meeting.

Does a chaplain do more than provide spiritual visits?

Yes. Chaplains have a ‘pastoral’ role. This means that they can provide you with care and counselling. They can help you to:

  • explore treatment and rehabilitation options
  • keep up contact with your family and community.

The chaplain will listen to you, and support and encourage you at times of trauma, crisis, illness or grief.

You can speak to a chaplain if you have concerns about any issue, including worries about:

  • your health
  • your family
  • legal matters
  • your emotional well-being.

A chaplain can visit you if you are under restraint or confined to a cell. They will always treat everything you say as confidential. The chaplains can also help you to prepare for your release.

Meetings with prison chaplains are generally not in view or hearing of a prison officer.