In the United Kingdom, prisoners are divided into four categories of security. Every adult in prison is assigned a different category, all depending on the crime they committed, the sentence, the risk of escape, and violent tendencies. The higher the category, the worse the convictions are.
There are three different prison services in the United Kingdom, and separate services for the three Crown Dependencies. Her Majesty's Prison Service manages prisons in England and Wales, and also serves as the National Offender Management Service for England and Wales. Prisons in Scotland are managed by the Scottish Prison Service and prisons in Northern Ireland are managed by the Northern Ireland Prison Service. The Isle of Man and the Channel Islands have their own prison administrations.
Prisoner categories in England and Wales
Male adult prisoners
Male adult prisoners (those aged 18 or over) are given a security categorisation soon after they enter prison. These categories are based on a combination of the type of crime committed, the length of sentence, the likelihood of escape, and the danger to the public if they were to escape. The four categories are:
|Prison type||Category||Prison description|
|Those whose escape would be highly dangerous to the public or national security. Offences that may result in consideration for Category A or Restricted Status include:
[Attempted] Murder, Manslaughter, Wounding with intent, Rape, Kidnapping, Indecent assault, Robbery or conspiracy to rob (with firearms), Firearms offences, Importing or supplying Class A controlled drugs, Possessing or supplying explosives, Offences connected with terrorism and Offences under the Official Secrets Act
|B||Those who pose a risk to the public but may not require maximum security, but for whom escape still needs to be made very difficult.|
|C||Those who cannot be trusted in open conditions but who are unlikely to try to escape|
|Open prison||D||Those who can be reasonably trusted not to try to escape, and are given the privilege of an open prison. Prisoners at "D Cat." (as it is commonly known) prisons, are, subject to approval, given ROTL (Release On Temporary Licence) to work in the community or to go on "home leave" once they have passed their FLED (Full Licence Eligibility Dates), which is usually a quarter of the way through the sentence.|
Category A, B and C prisons are called closed prisons, whereas category D prisons are called open prisons.
Category A prisoners are further divided into Standard Risk, High Risk, and Exceptional Risk, based on their likelihood of escaping.
Men on remand are held in Category B conditions with the exception of some of those who are held to be tried on (very) serious offences. These men are held in "Provisional Category A" conditions.
Escape List prisoners
Prisoners who have made active attempts to escape from custody are placed on the holding prison's Escape List. These prisoners (sometimes referred to as "E men" or "E List men") are required to wear distinctive, brightly coloured clothing when being moved both inside and outside of the prison and are handcuffed. In addition they are required to change cells frequently and to have their clothes and some of their personal property removed from their cell before being locked in for the night.
Female adult prisoners
Women are also classified into four categories. These categories are:
- Restricted Status is similar to Category A for men.
- Closed is for women who do not require Restricted Status, but for whom escape needs to be very difficult.
- Semi-open was introduced in 2001 and is for those who are unlikely to try to escape, but cannot be trusted in an open prison. This has been phased out. HMP Morton Hall and HMP Drake Hall were re-designated as closed in March 2009.
- Open is for those who can be safely trusted to stay within the prison.
Remand prisoners are always held in closed prisons.
Children and young people
When children and young people are sentenced or remanded in custody, they may be sent to one of four types of establishment depending on their needs, age, vulnerability and the nature of the offence they have been accused or convicted of:
- Secure Training Centres (STCs): privately run, education-focused centres for detained boys & girls aged between 12-17.
- Secure Children’s Homes (SCHs): run by local authority children's services, and one charity provider, these are focused on meeting the physical, mental, emotional and behavioural needs of vulnerable detained boys & girls aged between 10-17. Not all children detained in SCHs have necessarily been convicted of crimes as such, some are detained under the Children Act 1989 due to reasons such as their high risk of vulnerability to abuse, drugs and prostitution, the danger they pose to themselves or others, or because of their history of absconding from less secure accommodation, such as regular non-secure children's homes.
- Youth Offender Institutions (YOIs): run mainly by HM prison service and some private companies, these accommodate only boys aged 15–17 who have been convicted or remanded. They are generally more 'prison' based and focus less on the health and educational needs of those detained on site with lower ratios of staff to prisoners compared to STCs and SCHs. These establishments work and run almost identical to young offenders institutions apart from the fact they only accommodate younger boys aged 15–17. Girls aged 15–17 are not held in YOIs, instead they are held at either STCs, SCHs or in female adult prisons but kept in separate areas to the older females.
- Her Majesty's Young Offender Institution (YOIs) – run mainly by HM prison service and some private companies, these accommodate young men and women from the age of 18 up to 21 (but sometimes older if deemed appropriate and the detained person has a short time left on their sentence, most likely under 12 months) who have been convicted or remanded. They are generally more 'prison' based and focus less on the health and educational needs of those detained on site with lower ratios of staff to prisoners compared to STCs and SCHs. These establishments work and run almost identical to adult prisons apart from the fact they only accommodate younger adults aged 18–21.
Prisoner categories in Scotland
This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (June 2008)
- High Supervision: an individual for whom all activities and movements require to be authorised, supervised and monitored by prison staff.
- Medium Supervision: an individual for whom activities and movements are subject to locally specified limited supervision and restrictions.
- Low Supervision: an individual for whom activities and movements, specified locally, are subject to minimum supervision and restrictions. Low Supervision prisoners may be entitled to release on temporary licence and unsupervised activities in the community.
Prisoner categories in Northern Ireland
Prisoners (adult and young, male and female) are classified in a similar way to the English/Welsh system:
|A||Prisoners whose escape would be highly dangerous to the public, the police or the security of the state|
|B||Prisoners for whom the very highest conditions of security are not necessary but for whom escape must be made very difficult|
|C||Prisoners who cannot be trusted in open conditions but who do not have the resources or will to make a determined escape attempt|
|D||Prisoners who can reasonably be trusted in open conditions. However, there are at present no open prisons in Northern Ireland.|
|U||Remand, awaiting trial (also known as "hold for court") or awaiting sentence prisoners are Unclassified (U), although they are placed in Category A or B conditions.|
- Her Majesty's Prison Service
- Howard League for Penal Reform
- List of prisons in the United Kingdom
- Scottish Prison Service
- "Prison Walkthrough - Questions". Understanding your sentence. Criminal Justice System. Archived from the original on 8 September 2009. Retrieved 13 September 2009.
- "Category A Prisoners:Reviews of Security Category". Prison Service Instruction 03/2010. HM Prison Service. 1 March 2010. Archived from the original (DOC) on 25 August 2011.
- "What is the Prison Supervision S.gov.uk//Default.aspx?DocumentID=ac2a1c7b-19a6-4cfd-bb9f-31e7ada281f2". Scottish Prison Service. Archived from the original on 15 June 2011. External link in
- Dickson, Brice; Gormally, Brian (26 February 2015). Human Rights in Northern Ireland: The Committee on the Administration of Justice Handbook. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 179. ISBN 978-1-78225-505-5.