Prisoners may be transferred from one prison to another for a number of reasons. For example:

  • Their security category has changed
  • So that they can serve the final weeks of their sentence in a prison nearer their home
  • The prisoners' sentence plan requires them to complete a course which is not available at the prison they are in
  • They are behaving in a disruptive way
  • Category A prisoners are routinely moved from time to time for security reasons
  • For their own safety if they are being bullied
  • If their main visitor has a medical problem making visits impossible

Does a prisoner have a legal right to be transferred to a different prison if they wish?

No. Usually, it is up to the Governor whether they are transferred, except for Category A prisoners or people serving a life sentence, in which case Prison Headquarters makes the decision. However, although there is no legal right, the Prison Service does have a location policy stating that contact between a prisoner and his/her family should be encouraged and that harmful effects of being removed from normal life are minimised. The prison also has an obligation to take reasonable steps to keep a prisoner safe, which may include a transfer if they are being bullied.

How does a prisoner get a transfer?

Prisoners can request a transfer through the request/complaints system, or on a special form provided by the prison for requesting transfers. Transfers will normally only be considered after the prisoner has served a few months at the prison they wish to leave. The time a transfer can take varies from prison to prison and circumstance.

What if the request is refused?

Transfers are not automatically granted and can be refused. If it is refused the prisoner can appeal through the requests/complaints system and is entitled to a response from the Prison Service Headquarters within 6 weeks. If they are still not satisfied they can write in confidence to the Prisons Ombudsman, but this must be done within a month of receiving the reply from the Prison Service Headquarters. 

Temporary Transfers

It is possible for a prisoner who has been held a long way from home to save up visits for 6 months and apply for a temporary transfer to a local prison, usually for 28 days. Subject to the rules and visiting times of the local prison, the accumulated visits can be taken during that time. As with a permanent transfer, the prisoner must make the request and it is at the Governors' discretion. 

Can a prisoner be moved without the family's knowledge?

A prisoner who is being transferred is entitled to send one free special letter to someone who vists them. They may, at the Governor's discretion, be allowed more than one letter and/or an extra telephone call. If there is not enough time to write or phone, which may be the case for Category A prisoners, they can leave details of people who need to know with the prison and they will inform them. 

If you have not been informed and you do not know where they are, you can contact the Allocations Unit of the prison, or write to the Prisoner Location Service, PO Box 2152, Birmingham B15 1SD. Provided the prisoner is happy for you to know where they are, they will be able to let you know within 3-4 weeks.

What if I've come to visit and they are not there? 

If you have paid for your journey and arrived to find that your loved one has been transferred you can claim back your travel costs from the prison. If you paid for your journey with help from the Assisted Prison Visits Unit (APVU) then the prison will give you a note to send to them to claim for a visit to the new prison.