Regime and time out of cell

What is a regime?


The regime is the prison routine which determines when you will be unlocked for work, association, meals and access to other services.


Regimes are different at different prisons. Information about the regime should be easily available to prisoners and staff


How long is it lawful for me to be locked in my cell for?


Unfortunately, there are few rules determining how long people should be locked up for and it is not unlawful to be kept in your cell for long periods of time.


PSI 75/2011 Residential services states that ‘Prisoners must be afforded time out of their living accommodation, time in the open air and the opportunity for family contact’. However, it does not set any minimum standards.


There are more specific guidelines on time in the open air. PSI 75/2011 defines time in the open air as ‘time spent in a situation where the prisoner is able to benefit from fresh air and natural light.’


You should get a minimum of 30 minutes in the open air daily, though this is subject to weather conditions and need to maintain good order and discipline. Time outdoors as part of work, watching or participating in sport counts, as does time in the open air moving between activities.


The 30 minutes can be split into two periods but no more than this.


Governors should consider making arrangements for prisoners who are at court on two or more consecutive days to get some time in the open air.




PSI 30/2013 Incentives and Earned Privileges lists time out of cell as a recommended earnable privilege for prisoners, but it is up to each prison to decide what these limits might be.


What else should be included in the regime?


There is no longer a standard core day or any instruction stating when, how long, and how often association, work and other activities should be. This can now be different in different prisons. However, each prison should still provide the following:


Access to telephones

You should be given access to a telephone at times when family and friends are available and at reasonably frequent intervals. Further to this, PSI 49/2011 Prisoner Communications says that the time available for using the phones must not normally be less than two hours each day.


Access to showers

PSI 75/2011 says that you should have access to facilities to meet personal hygiene needs but does not specify expected frequency. The minimum requirement is therefore set by Prison Rule 28(2) which states that you should be able to have a bath or shower at least weekly.


Physical exercise

Prison Rules include the minimum requirements for physical exercise which stands at one hour per week for over 21s and two hours a week on average for under 21s.


Access to the library

Prison Rule 33 states:


'A library shall be provided in every prison and, subject to any directions of the Secretary of State, every prisoner shall be allowed to have library books and to exchange them'.


If you are unable to visit the library because you are in the hospital wing or in segregation a service should still be provided so that you can still at least borrow and exchange materials as often as if you were able to visit the library.


Consideration should be given to prisoners working full time and prisoners on ROTL who are unable to access the library during the normal working day. Please be aware that there are no longer set minimums for library access. The previous policy, in PSI 02/2015 Prison LIbrary Services, was that you should be able to access the library weekly and for a minimum duration of thrity minutes. However, this PSI was replaced by the Prison Education and Library Services Policy Framework, which does not include any minimums



PSI 05/2016 Faith and Pastoral Care for Prisoners says you should have the opportunity to attend the main religious observance of the week for the faith you are registered. This opportunity should be for at least one hour per week.

Further information

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

PSI 75/2011 Residential services

PSI 49/2011 Prisoner Communications

PSI 30/2013 Incentives and Earned Privileges

PSI 05/2016 Faith and Pastoral Care for Prisoners

Prison Education and Library Services Policy Framework

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