First entering prison can be a daunting experience for many people. In custody you are brought to a reception area, asked for details about your health, then issued with the uniform of a convicted criminal. Most possessions will be left here, listed and filed away until your day of release.
A full body search is to follow, along with the opportunity to see a doctor before they give you the chance to call your family and tell you how to arrange visits for them during your time of incarceration.
You are issued a number by which you will be identified, taken to a cell, given a shower if you want one then be introduced to the prison staff who will be responsible for you from now until your sentence is served.
Your fingerprints and photograph are taken and logged and your induction begins.
Welcome to prison life.
Whatever crime they may have committed, prisoners are still human. Being locked away in a cell, often one shared with someone you have never met before, is a stressful ordeal. There are a number of people available to help if this is an issue, including prison or medical staff, the chaplain, or even the Samaritans who can be contacted from within the prison.
As a convicted prisoner you have the right to make use of or to refuse NHS healthcare just as anyone else does, this includes things like access to psychiatric professionals for counselling.
What can I do?
While in prison a number of things change, some do not. As a convicted criminal (unless you have not yet been sentenced or are being held for contempt of court) you do not have the right to vote whilst in prison.
Working, however may be a possibility. Work is offered within the prison for those inmates wishing to earn money or even just to keep themselves busy. If you want to work but no work is currently available then a small amount of money will be paid to you for the purpose of buying day to day things, this will be withdrawn should work become available and you refuse to then take it up.
There is assistance available for people wishing to make appeals, arrange care for their dependents and many other things which may be completely new to them. This includes legal services, advice and representation and access to the prison library and possibly a computer if it is deemed necessary.
There is also information available regarding benefits, child support payments, rent and taxes and so on.
Visiting regulations differ from prison to prison, but generally up to 3 adults plus children can visit you at one time. Authorisation needs to be obtained first and children cannot visit unless accompanied by an adult. Visits last for an hour and are initially limited to 2 in a 4 week period, although behaviour can result in more visiting time being granted.