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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

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.

Information for visitors to HMP Pentonville

How to book a visit

All visits must be booked at least 24 hours in advance. You will not, therefore, be able to visit on the same day as booking. A maximum of 3 adults and 3 children will be permitted to visit at any one time. Visitors under 18 must be accompanied by an adult and proof of age may be required. Visits generally last for two hours.

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.

When booking a visit, please provide the following information:

  • Full name and prison number of the prisoner you wish to visit
  • Full name, address and date of birth of each visitor
  • The relationship of each visitor to the prisoner (wife, son etc)
  • Requested date and time of visit - for email bookings please give options in order of preference for each visit

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


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 10.30am 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

All visitors who are over 18 must provide ID in order to gain entrance to the prison. If, in the opinion of a member of staff, you or someone you are with looks 18 years or older, identification may be required to confirm your age.

Bring one of the following forms of ID with you:

  • A passport. This can include foreign passports, and time-expired passports where the photograph is still recognisable
  • Driving licence
  • EC identity card, home office ID, letter or photo ID from immigration
  • Annual public transport season ticket with photo card
  • Benefits book or card
  • Freedom Pass
  • Employer's or student ID card, but only if this clearly shows the name of the visitor and the employer or educational establishment and has a photograph or signature which can be compared with the visitor's appearance or signature and if the employer or educational establishment are known to exist

If you are unable to produce one of the above forms of ID, staff may accept combinations of two or more of the following:

  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage certificate
  • Rail or bus pass with photo card
  • Cheque book or credit/debit card
  • Young person's proof of age card
  • Trade union or National Students Union membership card
  • Library card, if it has a signature which can be compared with the visitor's signature
  • Rent book or card
  • Foreign identity or resident's card
  • Expired documents from the above lists that appear satisfactory in other ways

If you are refused entrance to the prison and you need assistance, please speak to a senior member of staff at the Visitors' Centre.


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

Additional sessions during school holidays

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

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
Contact Amelia Steele, Play Worker. Alternatively, you can talk to one of the Visitors’ Centre staff
020 7609 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.

The dress code

The prison has a dress code which applies to visitors:

  • No mini skirts are to be worn in the visits hall
  • No hot pants are to be worn in the visits hall
  • No bras or crop tops are to be worn in the visits hall
  • No hooded tops are to be worn in the visits hall

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 John Taylor 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

There are many rules and regulations about how to do this.

Sending money

You cannot hand in money in person, you have to send it in the post. You can mail postal orders and the money will be credited to the person's prison account. It is advisable not to send cash.

Postal orders

  • Make them payable to 'HMPS' and write the prisoner's name and number on the back, and the sender's name and return address as well
  • Address the envelope to the inmate, stating his name and prison number clearly

Giving the prisoner property

On the prisoner’s first visit you can hand in clothes before the visit. After that, the prisoner must make an application for clothes two days in advance of the visit (clothes can only be handed in before a visit).

The following items can be handed in on the prisoner’s first visit:

Qty Items Restrictions
5 Tops (including vests, long-sleeved & short-sleeved tops, shirts and polo shirts) No football tops
No offensive logos
No hoods
No white shirts
2 x Trousers (including tracksuit bottoms and jeans) No combat trousers
No black trousers (except for court appearances)
2 x Shorts  
1 x Coat or heavy jacket No hoods
2 x Jumpers (including zip-up tops & tracksuit tops) No hoods
No black fleeces
1 x Pair shoes or trainers  
1 x Pair room slippers  
1 x Flip-flops  
7 x Pairs socks  
7 x Pairs briefs  
1 x Large Towel or bathrobe  
1 x Facial towel  
2 x Pairs pyjamas Must be matching sets
1 x Dressing gown  

If the prisoner has applied for more clothes, you can bring:

Qty Items Restrictions
1 x Tops (including vests, long/short sleeved tops, shirts or polo shirts) As above.
Maximum of 5 allowed at any one time.
1 x Pair shoes or trainers  
7 x Pairs socks  
7 x Pairs briefs  
  • More clothing can only be brought in if the prisoner has made an application, and hands out some of their clothing for collection.
  • Clothes can only be handed in when on a visit.
  • Clothes for court appearances are not included above but must still be applied for and handed in via the normal process.

Sending in items by post

Items Restrictions
CDS and cassettes  
Spectacles, spectacles case & contact lens Sunglasses only allowed with doctor’s authorisation
Hearing aids & hearing aid batteries  
24 x photos No Polaroids
No photos with prisoners face in.
Diary/Organiser  
Books Sent directly from reputable supplier (ie: WH Smiths/Amazon)
Stationary (Stamps, envelopes, writing paper)  
Cell hobby equipment See facilities list for further details
Religious items See facilities list for further details

Clothing exchange for convicted prisoners

Convicted prisoners have 28 days from their arrival/conviction to obtain their clothing entitlement.

After the 28 day period, no clothes/shoes can be exchanged for 6 months. Following the 6 month period, clothing can be handed out for exchange and new clothing brought in once an application has been made.

Facilities List

The prison produces a very detailed Facilities List explaining what property is allowed in. This list changes fairly frequently. A laminated copy of this list is always available at the front desk in the Visitors' Centre and you can always call our centre staff on 020 7609 3860 with any questions.

Visitors' Centre opening hours

Monday - Saturday: 8.15 - 4.30

Sunday: 12.30 - 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

Monday - Saturday: 9.15 - 11.15 (last entry at 10.30am), 2pm - 4pm (last entry at 3pm)

Sunday: 2pm - 4pm (enhanced prisoners only)

There are no visits on Good Friday or Christmas Day.

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