This website is designed to provide an overall feel of prison for those who have never been before. It is also designed to prevent the aspects that provoke most frustration, despair and loss of your mental balance in the first few days and weeks.

Whilst it may seem like there is a lot here, and the information is overwhelming, this is really a very brief resource to quickly calm people’s fears in the lead-up to a possible sentence, as well as give relatives and friends a quick overview of the issues their loved ones are facing. For anyone wishing to find more detailed, systematic and comprehensive information, I cannot recommend highly enough the “The Prisons Handbook (2009)”, available from www.prisons.org.uk – a weighty tome with seemingly nothing overlooked and clearly the product of an enormous amount of time and research.

Finally, this website tries to give a view of the reality of what happens, rather than the objectives the prisons, HM Prison Service and associated organisations aim to achieve. Much of what is in here describes the divergence between goals and reality, as this divergence has a significant impact on prisoners’ well-being and mental state. By pointing this out, it is not intended as a criticism of prisons or HM Prison Service; in any organisation there will always be an extent to which reality falls short of objectives, and in an organisation as large and complex as the wider prison service, I personally do not believe this shortfall constitutes anything to be ashamed of or for the public as a whole to overly criticise. In fact, I think they do pretty well.

However, obviously any organisation which relies the cooperation of the Prison Service to produce its materials will need to be sensitive in how much it can describe any shortfalls. Therefore, since these shortfalls impact the mental state and lives of many individuals in prison, and the greatest part of this impact comes from their unexpected nature, this website tries to give some idea to everyone about the reality of the situation, from a position where it can be truthful and honest knowing it is free from any legal obligations, to fill the gap the more comprehensive information sources cannot.

My utmost apologies to any offence it causes to anyone in the many places where none of these shortfalls occur, but knowing how much it can affect those first few weeks in prison when they do, I have prioritised the mental well-being of prisoners over professional sensitivity, and hope any prisoner will be pleasantly surprised on the upside in whatever prison ultimately holds them.

If you have any comments or suggestions regarding the material contained within this guide, please feel free to contact me.