In my 35+ years as a process server I have been to many prisons.
Some Cat A, some Cat B, mostly Cat C, mostly in the North and English Midlands.
Over the years I have noticed that a lot of new prisons have replaced His Majesty’s Prison Service establishments with private companies. Every prison has its own individual characteristics.
From a process servers point of view I need a speedy method of arranging the visit and then I need to meet the prisoner as arranged and to hopefully, proceed to explain and serve the documents.
But, the “Bureaucratic” un-wielding system can often catch you out.
I wont shame the Prison, but, it is Cat B, and serves a large city.
Ok, made the booking to see the prisoner (Usually this is completed by a phone call or email to the prison) – got to the prison and found two car parks, side by side – the staff car park is almost empty whilst the public car park is full. You pull back onto the main road and cars are parked bumper to bumper – you have to drive for around 5 minutes, park up and walk back to the prison reception. On this particular occasion I presented my passport and driving licence to confirm my id and went through the search and fingerprint system. Got into the prison – at the next window a prison officer tells me that as I am late the prisoner has been been taken back to his cell and that I will need to rebook. The other prison officers will not wield and that is than – another long journey on another day.
I have now learnt to “Ring ahead” if I am going to be delayed when travelling to the prison.
The other frustrating aspect of visiting prisoners to serve documents is that the prisoner can decline the visit – you go through all the formalities and then you are advised of the situation. The documents are then sent to the prisoner in the post.
On one occasion I was told that the prisoner, “Could not be found”. I kept getting updates as the visiting window was “Closing”. Transpired that the prisoner was in a workshop on the other side of the prison and could not be fetched in time.
Most prisons during lockdown ceased all visits, my local prison HMP Leeds are still not allowing legal or special visits. Fortunately we have built up a good relationship with the prison and can email the documents into the prison and the staff serve the prisoner on our behalf.
I like going to all the Serco run prisons – Doncaster, Dovegate, Forest Bank as I do the state run prisons.
The G4S run prisons like HMP Humber (Cat C) are a bit, “Over officious” and on my last visit, even though the prisoner was happy to take the documents the staff said that the documents had to go through their postal checks – so, I had to send them in.
HMP Berwyn near Wrexham (State Run) was, in contrast, a better experience – the legal visitors go into the prison with the social visits – hit the right day and the banter and atmosphere is incredible.
Ok, my top 3:
HMP Lincoln – Hassle free booking. Very freindly and amicable staff. Historical old state run (Cat B) prison that looks great.
Dont attempt to walk from the Rail Station up to the prison. Google maps say its 1.5 miles, but, you will find one of the steepest inclines in the UK. Maybe consider walking back to the station instead!
HMP Leeds – Imposing, historical and generally a good place to visit (When visits were permitted). Got to know this Cat B prison and the staff very well. Also know exactly where to park to pounce on inmates as they are released.
Any of the female only prisons, especially around Christmas when the tannoy system seems to pick up carol singing, very faintly, and a bleak place takes on a new identity.
Kevin J Regan, B.A (Hons.),
Lead Examiner Pearson Edexcel, Centre Co-ordinator for SFJ, Main Tutor for Private Investigator Training UK
T 0800 279 7752
M 0772 1751860