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Justice still barred: Update on Survey by APL on Prison Visits

Justice still barred: Update on Survey by APL on Prison Visits


The Association of Prison Lawyers (APL) has released an update on their survey regarding the difficulties in accessing legal visits in prisons, covering the period from January to April 2024

Accessing legal visits in prisons remains a significant challenge, with persistent issues in video and in-person visit availability. The initial report, "Justice Barred," published in January 2024, highlighted numerous obstacles faced by legal practitioners in securing both video and in-person visits with their clients across 46 jails in England and Wales.

The recent update, based on 80 new examples from 35 prisons, indicates that these issues have not only persisted but, in some cases, worsened. Key findings include:

Persistent Issues in Video Link Availability

  • No Video Links: Several prisons continue to provide no video links for legal visits, including Downview, Erlestoke, Featherstone, Gartree, Guys Marsh, Highpoint, Hindley, Humber, Lancaster Farms, Northumberland, Ranby, Swaleside, The Mount, and Wymott.
  • Limited Availability: Many prisons offer video links but with significant delays. Practitioners reported excessive waiting times at prisons such as Fosse Way and Hindley, where the next available slots were months away.

Challenges with In-Person Visits

  • No In-Person Visits: Prisons like Leeds and Whitemoor have been reported to offer no in-person visits at all.
  • Ineffective Visits: Several instances were noted where visits were rendered ineffective due to logistical issues, such as clients not being produced or necessary equipment not being permitted.

Difficulties in Communication

  • Access Issues: Practitioners faced substantial barriers in even arranging visits, with prisons like Bure, Erlestoke, Featherstone, Rochester, and Whatton being unresponsive to emails or phone calls.

Examples of Poor Practices

  • Erlestoke: Limited to in-person visits only on Friday mornings, with video links unavailable.
  • Lewes: Restricted in-person visit durations, with only one-hour slots available on weekdays.
  • Gartree: Prohibition of paper documents, requiring practitioners to pre-book laptops.
  • Highpoint: No video links and only in-person visits in an open hall, deemed inappropriate for certain cases.

Notable Problematic Prisons

  • Northumberland: Reported for providing no video links and having restrictive policies for in-person visits.
  • Stocken: High demand resulting in fully booked video link appointments for months.
  • Wymott: No video links offered and limited legal visits to specific mornings.

Continued Advocacy and Next Steps

Since the January report, APL has continued to document these challenges and has engaged with the prisons minister, presenting a draft of their findings. APL will meet with officials in June to discuss practical solutions to improve access to justice within the prison system.


The update underscores that despite investments in video technology and the hiring of additional prison officers, significant barriers remain for legal practitioners trying to access their clients. The APL's ongoing efforts highlight the critical need for systemic changes to ensure that prisoners can exercise their legal rights effectively.

Analysis by Dr. Laura Janes on behalf of APL, 29 May 2024

Appendix 1: Prisons with Reported Difficulties (January to April 2024)

  • Berwyn
  • Bure
  • Downview
  • Erlestoke
  • Featherstone
  • Fosse Way
  • Full Sutton
  • Garth
  • Gartree
  • Guys Marsh
  • Haverigg
  • Highpoint
  • Hindley
  • Humber
  • Lancaster Farms
  • Leeds
  • Lewes
  • Lowdham Grange
  • Moorland
  • Northumberland
  • Oakwood
  • Onley
  • Ranby
  • Risley
  • Rochester
  • Stocken
  • Swaleside
  • Thameside
  • The Mount
  • The Verne
  • Warren Hill
  • Whatton
  • Whitemoor
  • Wormwood Scrubs
  • Wymott