What is categorisation? 

All adult male prisoners are assigned one of four categories based on the likelihood of escape and the risk to the public if they did escape. They are:

  • Category A: prisoners who would be highly dangerous to the public if they were to escape.
  • Category B: prisoners for whom the highest security conditions are not necessary but for whom escape needs to be made difficult.
  • Category C: prisoners who cannot be trusted in open conditions but who are unlikely to attempt to escape.
  • Category D: prisoners who live in open conditions and who are trusted not to try to escape.

What about women prisoners and young offenders?

Unless they are category A, they are not subject to formal security categories, but are classified as suitable for open conditions or closed conditions. 

Are remand prisoners categorised? 

Unless they meet the criteria of category A, remand prisoners are not categorised, they are usually treated as category B. Unconvicted women and young people will be held in a closed prison. 

Once someone has been assigned a category does it remain the same throughout their sentence?

Prisoners serving 12 months or more will have their category reviewed on a regular basis, usually every 3-6 months. If they are deemed less likely to attempt to escape and/or less risk their category may be changed to a lower one. The category can also be raised if a prisoner attempts to escape or their behaviour suggests that they pose more of a risk. Prisoners are often moved to a lower category as their release date approaches, as time in an open prison can help with readjustment for release. 

Can the prisoner appeal to have their category changed?

It is not easy to appeal against categorisation. Prisoners are not told the reasons for their classifications and there is no formal appeal procedure. If the correct procedure was not followed or the decision is legally irrational then it is possible to challenge in the High Court. 

How does the security category affect the prisoners' sentence?

The category determines where a prisoner will serve their sentence. The lower the category, the more freedom they will be allowed. Security will be much tighter in category A prisons, with visitors and mail being subject to more stringent checks.