Accommodation and living conditions in prison

Where will I live?

When you arrive at the prison you will be allocated a room, often called a cell. It may be located on a ‘block’ or a ‘wing’ of the prison.


This room may not be where you will live for your entire sentence. You may be moved to another wing or another prison, depending on how long your sentence is.


If you are considered to be especially vulnerable you may be allocated to a ‘vulnerable prisoners unit’, also known as a VPU.


You should inform a member of staff if you have thoughts of harming yourself. You may be allocated to a safer cell or with a listener.


Will I have to share a cell?

You may have to share a cell with someone else. It will usually be with one other person but in some cases you may have to share with more.


If you are a non-smoker you should not be made to share a cell with someone who smokes


If you are on remand Prison rule 7 says that you should not be made to share a cell with a convicted prisoner. You can share with a convicted prisoner if you are willing to and give your consent. There is more about the treatment of unconvicted prisoners in PSO 4600 and in our information sheets for Unconvicted, Unsentenced and Civil Prisoners.


Any prisoner allocated to a shared cell must have a risk assessment. There is more information in PSI 20/2015 Cell Sharing Risk Assessment.


You should not be asked to share a room with more people than the cell certificate specifies as the maximum.

What condition should my living accommodation be in?


The cell you are living in must have sufficient heating, lighting and ventilation and be of adequate size for the number or people allowed to live in it. 


There is more information about this in PSI 17/2012 Certified Normal Accommodation.


Cell furniture

The following furniture should normally be provided for each person:

  • A bed
  • A storage locker and wardrobe
  • A chair
  • Use of a table, pinboard, mirror and waste bin

There should be room for movement and basic living activities such as getting dressed.


Cell call system

Each cell must have a cell call system or other effective way of communication with staff.


PSI 75/2011 Residential services states that ‘staff should acknowledge all requests for assistance by having personal contact with the person’. It also states that ‘appropriate action must be taken in response to abuse of the call system’.



Prison Rule 27 says you should be provided with ‘a separate bed and with separate bedding adequate for warmth and health’.


Use of the WC

As a minimum you should be able to use the WC ‘with some privacy’ from others. This means body screening from main points of the cells such as the table and the beds.


In uncrowded conditions you may also expect full screening such as a cubicle and separate ventilation for the WC.


Other services in your cell

Other services which may be found in some cells, such as in-cell power, TV or radio aerial outlets, showers, and in-cell fire detection, do not form part of the cell certification process. 

Hygiene and toiletries


There is not much detail in prison rules about access to washing facilities, though Prison Rule 28 says that you should have access to a bath or shower at least weekly.


Governors can decide what access to washing facilities is reasonable but should consider your circumstances, including whether you are doing energetic and dirty work and any health, religious or other needs you might have. 

Haircutting should be available but your hair must not be cut without you wanting it to be.

Prison Rule 28 and PSI 75/2011 say that you should have access to toiletries necessary for health and cleanliness. The number or type of toiletries are not specified but it says that they should be ‘replaced as necessary’.

General wing conditions


Living accommodation and communal areas should be clean and maintained. This is included in PSI 75/2011 and PSI 06/2015 Policy, Organisation And Summary Arrangements For The Management Of Health And Safety

Further information


Useful PSIs and PSOs (these should be available in the library):

PSI 17/2012 Certified Prisoner Accommodation

PSI 20/2015 Cell Sharing Risk Assessment

PSI 75/2011 Residential Services

PSI 06/2015 Policy, Organisation And Summary Arrangements For The Management Of Health And Safety

For a print-ready version of this information, click here.