If this is your first time in prison, your sentence is on the short side (therefore you are unlikely to bother escaping) and you are not likely to cause trouble, then you are likely to get transferred to an open prison.

While transfer to an open prison will seem like a very important event, unfortunately you will not know anything about when it will happen and will not have much control over the situation. The good news is that you don’t need to do anything. It will all go on behind the scenes anyway.

Firstly, the OMU (Offender Management Unit) in your prison will need to determine which category prison is appropriate for you (A, B, C or D getting increasingly open) and they liaise with the prison service to find a suitable space.

When you do find out you are being transferred it could be with a few days’ notice or it could just be the night before with a piece of paper under the door and no one to ask about it.

Holding prisons are generally pretty crowded and the efforts to move you on will be made without any input from you. But like all else, it could take a while, being affected not just by the bureaucracy and the available space, but practical issues such as whether there is any space on the weekly transport to that prison. It could easily take up to four weeks, but it doesn’t mean they’ve forgotten about you.

When you do find out you are being transferred it could be with a few days’ notice or it could just be the night before with a piece of paper under the door and no one to ask about it.

There is only one situation in which it is worth you having input into the process: if the people likely to visit you in prison would have genuine difficulties traveling long distances to see you. In such cases you can apply to be in a certain part of the country. It may not help, you may just get sent where there is space, but if you have infirm close relatives who will be trying to visit, or young children, it is worth letting them know.

Generally the OMU will start to look for space by looking at the nearest prisons to where you are at the time, so location can be particularly relevant if you have been convicted in a completely different part of the country to where your family is. Again, it may not help, but you can let OMU know by filling in an application form.

Finally, and very importantly, when you get to an open prison from “bang-up” it can often feel like it’s worse than where you were. This can be for several reasons, such as:

It may not happen to you, but it happens to a lot of people so get ready for it as you will have looked forward to this move every day you are inside. This unease will pass after a couple of days, it does for everyone – open prisons are a much better experience.

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