Visiting someone in prison

Prison visits are an important part of helping prisoners to stay in contact with their families and friends.

Booking a visit

The prisoner will have been given a booking reference which they will pass on to you before you book the visit by telephoning the prison Visits Booking Office.

For visits to Maghaberry, Magilligan and Hydebank Wood please call:

Normally two adults, together with three children will be allowed at each visit. Depending on the space available the prison may be able to accommodate larger families. It is essential that you agree the numbers with the prison before you travel. 

If you are visiting someone who has just been sent to prison you may be able to have a first visit without pre-booking. Places are limited so you must telephone the Visits Booking Office before visiting.

The details of all people including the names, addresses and ages of children intending to visit should be given when booking a visit.

If you have any special requirements including wheelchair access, please mention this when booking your visit.

Identification needed to visit

All visitors aged 18 and over will, by their third visit, have to provide photographic evidence of their identity; be photographed for record purposes and have their fingers scanned to enrol them on the system. Acceptable photographic ID includes:

  • driving licence
  • passport
  • electoral identity card
  • senior citizen's smart pass
  • citizen's card

If necessary you will be able to make the first two visits without photographic ID but you must have it available by your third visit.

Children aged between 16 and 18 may be allowed visits without the presence of an adult, provided there are no reasons for this not to happen.  The written consent of their parent/guardian will be required. These children will also provide photographic ID, be photographed and have their fingers scanned to enrol them on the system.

A child who is accompanied by an adult should provide identification such as a birth certificate or a medical card. A child of 11 years or over will have their fingers scanned  to enrol them on the system.

Bringing items in

You must leave your personal belongings in the lockers provided in each prison but you can bring in a small amount of cash to the visiting room to buy snacks..


If you want to give money to the prisoner you are visiting, you must bring it to the Visits Reception when you enter the prison. Staff will put the money into the prisoner’s Inmates Personal Cash account (IPC).

Each prisoner is allowed a maximum of £500 in their account. You can ask staff at the Visits Reception to check the balance of the account for you.

You must get written permission from the governor, if you want to post money to a prisoner or if the prisoner you are visiting wants to pass money out to you.


Prisoners in Northern Ireland are allowed to wear their own clothes. If they do not wish to bring in any or all of their own clothing, the prison can give them certain items.

Clothing Parcels may be left at Visits Reception. Prisoners are limited to what clothing they are allowed to wear and as all laundry is carried out within the prison all clothing must be machine washable. Please check with the prison to find out what is on the current list of accepted items.

Books, newspapers and magazines

You can bring in paperback books during Visits Reception opening times for a prisoner.

Families may order and pay for newspapers and magazines through certain local newsagents. Contact the prison or ask staff at the Visits Reception for details.

Search procedures

You will be searched by prison staff when you arrive for your visit.  

You may also be required to stand in line while a Passive Drugs Dog is walked past you. If the dog indicates that you have been in contact with drugs the dog will sit down beside you. Should this happen, you will be offered a closed visit or if you do not want to take up this offer you may be asked to leave the prison and re-arrange the visit.

Any visitor found to be in possession of prohibited articles may be held by prison staff and handed over to the police.

Along with adults, children and babies can also be searched so it is important that you reassure your child about the possibility of being searched before you arrive.

Children and babies are always searched in a way that ensures that their health and well-being is protected. If staff suspect children are being used to smuggle drugs into a prison, they will treat this as suspected child abuse and may tell the police and child protection services.

Children under the age of 16 are searched only with the consent of their parent or carer. Please be aware that if you refuse to let prison authorities search your child or baby, you may be refused entry to the prison.

A leaflet explaining search procedures in more detail will be available at most prisons.

Help with travel

NIACRO operates a transport service to each of the prisons from various locations throughout Northern Ireland.

To make a booking or to find out more contact NIACRO:

  • telephone: 0800 169 2207 (Monday and Thursday 10.00am – 1.00pm) 

If you are aged over 18 and receiving certain benefits, you may get help with the cost of visiting a close relative or partner in prison.

You must be on one of the following benefits:

  • Income Support
  • Income-based Job Seeker's Allowance
  • Employment and Support Allowance-income related
  • Certain Tax credits (depending on maximum household income)

For more information, contact the Assisted Prisons Visits Unit (APVU) by:

Application forms can also be obtained from Visits staff in the prison or at the Visitors’ Centre.


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