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Visiting Pentonville Prison

The Visitors' Centre at Pentonville Prison is now run by Spurgeons, the children’s charity. Our aim is to provide a supportive, friendly and welcoming environment for everybody who is visiting a prisoner, including those with children.

Information about the Visitors' Centre

Contact information:

HMP Pentonville, Caledonian Road, London, N7 8TT

Tel: 020 7609 3860

Pentonville main switchboard tel: 0207 023 7000

Email: pentonville@spurgeons.org


How to get there

HMP Pentonville is situated in North London.

  • Bus: There are bus stops on both sides of the road outside Pentonville. Routes 17, 91, 259 and 274 all stop here.
  • Train: If you are coming to London by train, Kings Cross is the nearest main line station. You can then catch the northbound tube on the Piccadilly line to Caledonian Road. Caledonian and Barnsbury Overground Station is on the Richmond and Stratford line. When you leave the station, turn right and Pentonville is about 5 minutes walk on the same side of the road.
  • Car: Parking around the prison is restricted, and visitors are not allowed to park on prison property.

To find the Visitors' Centre, turn right after entering the prison gates; follow the pedestrian walkway along, and the Visitors' Centre is on your left.


What is available at the Visitors' Centre

  • information and advice about prison routines
  • information on visiting procedure
  • information about the Prison Assisted Visits Scheme
  • a coffee bar selling a range of drinks and snacks
  • toys for children to play with
  • information leaflets
  • toilets and baby changing facilities
  • Spurgeons' staff are on hand to support you with any questions, queries or just to have a chat.

How to book a visit

Both Remand and Convicted prisoners are able to book visits for you from the inside. Convicted prisoners must book all visits from the inside.

To book a visit, phone the prison's Booking Line on 020 7023 7251.

Booking Line opening hours: Monday - Friday: 8.30am - 12pm and 1pm - 4.30pm (closed on bank holidays).

Alternatively you can book a visit by email at socialvisits.pentonville@hmps.gsi.gov.uk.

Only one visit can be booked per email.


How many visits is the prisoner allowed?

It depends whether the prisoner is on remand or convicted and if they are on the privileges system.

All prisoners at HMP Pentonville are part of a system for earning or losing privileges. Each prisoner is on a basic, standard or enhanced regime depending on how many privileges they have earned.

The following list gives a breakdown of the number of visits prisoners are allowed:

  • Convicted prisoners are allowed 2 visits per month
  • Remand prisoners are allowed 3 visits per week
  • Reception visit - first visit for all new visitors


Information for visitors to HMP Pentonville

Before you visit

Give yourself plenty of time to get to HMP Pentonville; aim to arrive at least half an hour before you visit is due to start. If you arrive after 10am or 3pm you will not be allowed to visit.

When more than one person is visiting, you must wait for the whole group to be present. If you enter the prison and a member of your party arrives late they will not be allowed in.

You will need to bring identification with you, please see below for a list of appropriate ID. You will also need to bring a £1 coin with you to use in the locker where your belongings will be kept while you are on the visit.


What to bring as ID

Please refer to the HMP website for ID requirement guidance or call us on 020 7609 3860


Bringing the children?

Inside the visits hall is a children's play area, run by Spurgeons' staff and volunteers, which provides toys, games and playworkers for the children.

Play Services at HMP Pentonville

The play area at HMP Pentonville is a cheerful area in the corner of the visits hall. There are pictures of children's paintings and wildlife on the walls.

Play area opening hours

Monday: 2:15pm - 4:15pm
Tuesday: closed
Wednesday: 2:15pm - 4:15pm
Thursday: closed
Friday: 2:15pm - 4:15pm
Saturday: 9.15am - 11.15am, 2:15pm - 4:15pm
Sunday: 2:15pm – 4:15pm

Additional sessions during school holidays

Tuesday: 2:15pm – 4:15pm
Thursday: 2:15pm – 4:15pm

Facilities on offer

  • Arts and crafts
  • Puzzles and books
  • Trained playworkers and volunteers
  • Dressing up clothes
  • Soft toys
  • Bean bags
  • Games

'Family day' visits
These take place three or four times a year at HMP Pentonville, at Christmas and around Father's Day. During family days, prisoners and their families can move around the visits hall freely and there are activities such as face-painting, a treasure hunt and storytelling.

For more information
You can talk to one of the Visitors Centre staff members on 0207 609 3860


Booking in for a visit

When you arrive for your visit you will need to go to the Visitor's Centre, which is situated on the main driveway, next to the prison entrance.

The Visitors' Centre staff will go through the checking in procedures and will give you further information or help that you may require. You can buy refreshments at the Visitors' Centre and also sit and wait for your visit.

You will be asked to fill in an ‘Open Visiting Order' form stating the name, address and date of birth of each visitor. You will then be called upstairs by the number on your form to show your identification to the prison booking staff and have your photograph and fingerprints taken.

All your personal property must be placed in a locker in the Visitors’ Centre. This is operated by a £1 coin, which is refundable

The only items you can take into the visits hall with you are:

  • Your Open Visiting Order
  • Locker key
  • A small amount of money for refreshments (up to £20 in coins or notes)
  • A clear bottle, nappies and wipes for babies

Everything else must be placed in the lockers; this includes money in notes, cigarettes, wallets, keys, hats, scarves and sunglasses. Please note that items are left in the locker at your own risk.

You must make sure you have no gum or sweets in your mouth.


What happens on a visit?

Going into the prison

When you go to the main gate for your visit, you will need to go to the second glass window where prison staff will ask to see your Open Visiting Order and your wrist band.

When you enter the waiting area, you will be subject to a pat down search. All visitors (including children) will be searched. Personal items and any property to be handed in will also be checked. Dogs trained to detect drugs may also be present before you enter the visits hall. You may also, on the instructions of the governor only, be required to undergo a strip search.

The property hatch is located in the waiting area. If you want to hand in property for a prisoner, you must do so before the visit. Guidance about bringing property.

Behaviour and conduct during visits

Whilst the prison appreciates that visiting someone that you care about can be a difficult and sensitive occasion, it asks that you adhere to the rules and regulations that are in place. Most of these are displayed on the walls and notice boards. If you are unsure about how they will affect your visit then please ask a member of staff to explain them to you.

Below is a list of some of the rules that apply when on your visit:

  • Please remember that children remain your responsibility throughout the entire time that you are in the prison. It is not acceptable for you to allow your child or children to run or play in the visiting aisles. You are welcome to use the play area.
  • At no time should you leave a person under the age of 18 years alone in the visiting hall
  • Coats and other items of clothing should be placed in the lockers. This includes ponchos and headwear (unless it pertains to a recognised religion)
  • Hooded coats, jackets, or jumpers are not allowed in the visits hall
  • Sunglasses or tinted glasses cannot be worn in the visits hall
  • Signing letters or documents is not allowed. If you need to use pen and paper you must gain permission from a senior prison office
  • Intimate/sexual contact is not allowed. Any evidence that this is taking place will result in your visit being terminated and the prisoner being placed on Governor's Report
  • Foul or abusive language will not be tolerated
  • You are not permitted to visit any other inmate in the visiting hall. If you have booked to see another inmate you must leave the hall and wait to be called for your next visit

It is important that you understand the prison's rules at the onset of your visit, as any breach of these could mean that your visit is terminated.

Notes for parents

The prison asks parents or carers of young children to note the following:

  • Children over the age of five are not allowed hooded coats, jackets or jumpers in the visits hall
  • Babies' bottles or training cups must be clear (see-through)

After your visit

On completion of your visit, you may also be given a pat down search. Please note that the police will be called if it is suspected that you are carrying drugs or illicit items to pass to an inmate.


Help with travel costs

If you are on a low income or you receive benefits, you might be entitled to get help from the government with the cost of visiting your relative in prison. Help is provided by the Assisted Prison Visits Unit (APVU). You can claim for two visits a month.

For more information about the APVU:

  • Assisted Prison Visits Unit, PO Box 2152, Birmingham, B15 1SD
  • Phone: 0300 063 2100
  • Fax: 0121 626 3474

Email: assisted.prison.visits@noms.gsi.gov.uk


Concerned about someone in prison?

Are you worried about a prisoner in Pentonville? Have they told you they are being threatened, self harming or having thoughts of suicide?

If so, the Safer Custody Team are here to help and support them. Contact the team on 0207 023 7096 or email them at SafercustodyPentonville@hmps.gsi.gov.uk

The phone line’s answer machine is checked daily. When leaving a message, please speak clearly and leave as much detail as possible so that the prison can deal with your concerns.


Giving difficult or bad news

It is not easy for anyone to give bad news and you may find it helpful to speak about it first. If you would like to speak to someone or are concerned about giving difficult or bad news to the person that you are visiting, please speak to the Visitors' Centre staff or the Visits Senior Officer in the prison.

Where there is a death in the family, the Chaplaincy will offer support to the prisoner. Call 020 7023 7000 extension 3098 / 3217, or 3282 for the Imam.

If the Visitors' Centre is closed, please contact the Orderly Officer or Duty Governor at the prison on 020 7023 7000.


Support from other organisations

There are a number of organisations that offer advice and support to prisoners and their families. To find out more, visit our links page.


Are you affected by your loved one’s drugs or alcohol misuse?

Phoenix Futures provides a confidential and easily accessible service that supports families.

The service can offer you private meetings in the Visitors’ Centre, ongoing telephone, email and face to face support and onward referral to community support services. The service is available to anyone visiting a prisoner and for prisoners in custody. They can also offer you support up to three months after the prisoner’s release.

Please speak to Josephine Standbrook in the Visitor’s Centre for more information, or contact him by phone on 0207 609 2490 or by email at Pentonville.familysupport@phoenix-futures.org.uk.


Giving the prisoner property and money

Sending in money:

If you would like to give money to a prisoner, please send a postal order made payable to the HMPS with the prisoner’s name and number, and your name and address on the back. Any amount can be sent in. And depending on their status, a limited amount will be allowed per week. It may take up to a week for the money to be credited to the prisoner’s account.

Giving the prisoner property

All property must now be posted in by either Royal Mail or Parcel Force, more information to follow shortly.

How do you book a visit if you’re convicted?

There are 2 ways you can book a visit.

  1. Prisoners can submit a Visit order. Please fill out a form on the wings and return it to the visits boxes. You should expect a reply within 3 working days.
  2. Your visitors can use our online booking system to make a booking request. This will be processed by the booking team and they should have a reply within 3 working days. www.gov.uk/prison-visits

How do you book a visit if you’re on remand or a detainee?

There are 3 ways of booking a visit.

  1. Your visitors can call our booking line number 0207 023 7251
  2. Your visitors can use our online booking system to make a booking request. This will be processed by the booking team and they should have a reply within 3 working days. www.gov.uk/prison-visits
  3. Your visitors can email our booking team directly socialvisits.pentonville@hmps.gsi.gov.uk

What if my family don’t have access to IT?

For convicted prisoners you can use the visit order system. For remand prisoners your family can call our booking line. Please note that there is only one line and it does get very busy.

Most local authorities offer access to internet facilities at reduced rates.


What’s the latest time visitors are allowed in if they are late?

For the morning session enrolment closes at 10:00 and in the afternoon 15:00. Anybody who arrives after this point will not be allowed in.


How do prisoners know when they have a visit?

Either by return of visit order application within 3 working days or by the visits lists published on the wing 3 days in advance. This will include legal visits.


How many Visits are I allowed?

For remand or detainees you can have 3 per week.

If you are convicted then you can have 2 per month.

Enhanced prisoners get an extra visit per month. Only enhanced prisoners can have visits on Sundays.


What ID do my visitors need?

We operate a biometrics system. We will take the fingerprints of visitors on their first visit.

On the first visit visitors will need proof of address i.e. a bank statement or utility bill dated within the past 3 months and a form of official photographic ID. This includes freedom passes, drivers licences, current passport. ID that cannot be used includes oyster cards and student ID.

Correct ID should be brought for all visits at all times. If the biometrics fail you will need valid ID to be allowed entry.


What happens if they don’t bring the correct ID or proof of address?

The Visitors will not be allowed in.


How long are visits and when are they?

We aim to provide a minimum of 1 hour visits and offer slots of up to 2 hours.

Those on closed visits may only get 30 minutes for their visit.

Sunday - 14:00-16:00 (Enhanced only)
Monday - 09:15-11:15 + 14:15-16:15
Tuesday - 14:15-16:15 (Except for the 1st Tuesday of the month where it will be 09:15-11:15)
Wednesday - 09:15-11:15 + 14:15-16:15
Thursday - 14:15-16:15
Friday - 14:15-16:15
Saturday - 09:15-11:15 + 14:15-16:15


Who is placed on closed visits?

Those who are caught with contraband i.e. Drugs or phones or where information suggests that someone is involved in such culture will be placed on closed visits for 3 months regardless of adjudication outcomes. Each case will be reviewed at that stage and you will be informed whether you are to come off the restrictions or the reasons why your staying on.

Those who are repeatedly involved in violence or commit violence while on basic may also be considered for Closed visits for a period of 3 months. Decisions will be made on a case by case basis and individuals will be informed.

The SO in visits can also put you on closed visits at their discretion on the day if you do not follow the rules in visits.

Closed visits is an administrative procedure rather than a punishment.


Can some visitors be banned from seeing you?

Yes, if your visitors is also registered as the victim of a case then they will not be allowed to visit.

Visitors will also be banned if they do not follow the rules of the establishment or if they are rude or abusive to staff. We operate a zero tolerance policy.

Visitors who are believed to bring contraband into the establishment face arrest, a criminal record and having a custodial sentence themselves. Visitors will be monitored by CCTV for the duration of their time in the establishment. This CCTV may be passed onto other authorities.


Can I hand anything out on a visit i.e letters or something I made here?

No


Is there a dress code for visitors and if so what is it?

HMP Pentonville operates a family orientated visits policy. The majority of our visitors are accompanied by children and we want to foster a decent, safe and relaxed family environment.

To maintain decency in the visits hall our dress code must be adhered to. This is to prevent inappropriate clothing being worn in and around the presence of other visitors and staff.


The following items of clothing should NOT be worn:

  • Hats or scarves and head covering which are not worn on religious grounds
  • Jackets or Coats
  • Inappropriately damaged clothing
  • Metal hair accessories
  • Steel toe capped shoes/boots or cycle/motorcycle shoes
  • Non prescription glasses i.e. sunglasses
  • See-through tops
  • Low cut revealing tops
  • Crop tops revealing the navel area
  • Male vests of any kind
  • Items of clothing that display offensive abusive or insulting words or gestures
  • Mini or very short skirts/dresses unless worn with leggings
  • Shorts which are hot pant length - all shorts must be mid thigh to knee length

Due to the diversity of attire available the staff in visits will at all times use their discretion when faced with inappropriate dress but will in ALL cases make their decisions and judgements based on decency. You may be asked to adjust clothing or wear alternative clothing if available. As a last resort your visit may be cancelled if the dress code cannot be adhered to.


How do I find out about and apply for your famous family visits

Notices will go up around 2/3 weeks in advance on the visits notice boards. Arsenal days are open to those who are enhanced only, due to the small space available. Family days are open to those with children who are enhanced or standard. (priority for enhanced)

We aim to run Arsenal days during the school holidays and Family days 6 times per year which works out on average as every other month.


Who are your family support partners?

Spurgeons is one of the UK’s most well –respected children’s charities, who work in partnership with HMP Pentonville. Our friendly team of family support workers can be found at the Visitors’ Centre and are available to offer practical and emotional support on a wide range of issues, including childcare and bringing children to a visit.

Pact is a national charity working to support those affected by imprisonment. The aim of the service is to support prisoners and their families to make a fresh start in order to improve the outcomes for children.

  • Worried about a family member
  • Need support around preparing for a release
  • Need support around telling the children about your imprisonment
  • Need access to local services
  • Or need someone to talk to
  • Pact can help

Visitors' Centre opening hours

Monday - Saturday: 8.30 - 4.30

Sunday: 1:00 - 4.30

Please note that the prison visiting times are slightly different to the Visitors' Centre opening hours. If you need to find out the visiting times, see below.


Prison visiting times

Sunday - 14:00-16:00 (Enhanced only)

Monday - 09:15-11:15 + 14:15-16:15

Tuesday - 14:15-16:15 (Except for the 1st Tuesday of the month where it will be 09:15-11:15)

Wednesday - 09:15-11:15 + 14:15-16:15

Thursday - 14:15-16:15

Friday - 14:15-16:15

Saturday - 09:15-11:15 + 14:15-16:15

There are no visits on Good Friday or Christmas Day.

Please note that all visits must be booked at least 48 hours in advance.