Visiting someone in prison
Prison visits are an important part of helping prisoners to stay in contact with their families and friends. You will need to book if you want a prison visit and you will need to be aware of the rules and what to expect when you visit.
Getting registered for prison visits
All visitors need to be registered in the prison they are visiting. When you arrive at Visits Reception you will be photographed, have a scan taken of your finger and will be asked to provide identification.
When you arrive to visit a prisoner for the first time, you should arrive at least 30 minutes before your visit so you can be registered.
Once you are registered, you will not have to bring photo identification every time you visit, unless there is a gap of more than three months since your last visit. You will need to have photo identification when leaving in clothing parcels.
Identification you need
On your first visit, you will need to bring identification with you. All visitors aged 18 and over will, by their third visit, have to provide photographic identification as proof of their identity, be photographed for record purposes and have their fingers scanned to register them on the system.
Acceptable photographic ID includes:
- driving license
- electoral identity card
- senior citizen's smart pass
- citizen’s card
Identification for visitors aged 16-18 at Hydebank
A young person aged between 16-18 visiting Hydebank Wood without an adult will also need to provide identification. If the teenager does not have a passport or driving license they will need two forms of identification. They can use:
- birth certificate
- medical card
- national insurance card
- student photo ID card
- bus pass photo
- library card
If you are aged 16 or 17 you can visit unaccompanied if you have written parent or guardian consent. The parent or guardian will have to come to the prison with identification for the first visit.
Book a prison visit
All visitors should expect to be searched. Anyone refusing to be searched will not be allowed their prison visit.
Children will also need to be searched and need to be accompanied by an adult
All visitors will have a rub down search and must pass a dog fully trained to detect banned items before entering the visits room.
The dog is on a lead and does not come into contact with the visitor but detects by scent. The dog will indicate to the handler when a visitor may be carrying banned articles or has been in close recent contact with any banned items.
If a dog makes a positive indication, the visitor will be offered either a closed visit (in a location that prevents physical contact) or they can choose not to take the visit. If a closed visit facility is not available the visitor may reschedule their visit. Other visitors in the party may take the visit as normal.
Your personal items
Visitors must leave their personal belongings in the specially provided lockers in each prison.
What to wear
Sporting team clothing or colours are not allowed.
Revealing clothing is not allowed. Midriff and cleavage must be fully covered.
Failure to comply with the above may result in you not gaining entry to your visit.
Special requirements for visitors
If you have any special requirements including wheelchair access, you must tell the staff when booking your visit.
If you are visiting someone in Maghaberry Prison and are a Blue Badge holder (driver only), you will need to pre-book a disabled parking space. All other visitors to Maghaberry must park in the car park at the Visitors’ Centre.
Numbers of people during a visit
Normally up to three adults, together with up to two children (a total of 5), will be allowed at each visit.
If you would like a change to this, you can phone the booking office. Visit bookings cannot be amended within 24 hours of the visit.
If you are on a low income, you may be able to get some help with the cost of your travel expenses.
Getting to prison
There is a free taxi service available on visit days between Moria Train station and Maghaberry Visitors' Welcome Centre. There is also a free NIPS Bus between Bellerena train station and Magilligan Visitors' Welcome Centre.
You will need to tell the prison if you plan to use these services.
Giving property or money to a prisoner
You can bring clothing, gifts or lodge money into a prisoner's account. However, there are rules on what you can bring.
You can also post some items to a prisoner.
Making a complaint to prisons
Support for people visiting prisoners
There is support available for visitors who need to raise concerns about a prisoner, or how your child is coping with prison visits.