Going Prepared for Custodial Sentence or Possible Period of Remand
At this stage the prison support groups should have been contacted so they can ensure that a Case Worker is available in the office to contact the prison in the eventuality of a custodial sentence or period of remand being given, in order to give the appropriate prison advice on the requirements of vegans regarding vegan food/toiletries.
At each court attendance you should go prepared to receive a custodial sentence as court procedures involving different cases are constantly changing. For example, you may be told that a case will be heard over a five day period, only for it to conclude on day 1. For this reason you should take with you each day items that will be of use to you in prison; provided of course you are on bail. The following is a list of some essential and non essential items.
Essential Items [back to content menu]
Non Essential Items [back to content menu]
Food in court [back to content menu]
Sometimes, when arrested, you may be held overnight at the police station and taken to Court the next day. Alternatively you may be in prison and taken to the Court for a hearing. You will be held in a cell at the Court and the question of food may arise.
Our information is that Group 4 [one of the companies used for the transportation of prisoners] do not have any vegan pre-packaged food available. You are entitled to be fed and can insist that they provide you with suitable food. Your solicitor and the VPSG may be able to help you with this if contacted.
Three other companies used for transportation are Reliance, Premier and Securicor. The same will apply to them as they are also responsible for your welfare whilst you are in their care.
Arriving at the prison
Reception [back to content menu]
Once you have arrived at the prison you will be processed at reception. This will inevitably involve a period of waiting around until you are seen.
You will first be strip searched which will involve all items of clothing being removed and each item searched. At no time should all clothing be removed at once [i.e. the lower half of your clothing should be intact while they are searching the top half and vice versa].
All your property will be listed on your property card. The items you are allowed will be handed back for you to take with you into prison, while other items will be stored for you. You will be allowed to hand out stored or in possession items on visits, providing you make an application beforehand.
You will usually be given a pack containing basic toiletries, comb and a toothbrush. This often contains the vegan prison-issue toiletries mentioned above; memorise them to ensure you have vegan toiletries right from the start or take this list with you.
Your photograph will be taken and you will then be issued with a prison number. This number will usually remain with you throughout your sentence whether you are on remand or convicted.
You will be asked whether you have any medical problems or are on any medication - this is the best opportunity to clearly state that you are a vegan.
Free phone call
Prisoner Support's role if you are detained in prison [back to content menu]
If you are sentenced or remanded, prisoner support will contact the prison informing them of your arrival and advising them of your requirements.
The kitchens will then be contacted and we will ascertain whether they have a copy of the free VPSG Catering Information pack that was despatched to all prisons in 2007 and whether they have our prison news sheets. If they require replacements these are despatched immediately.
Copies of all correspondence sent on your behalf will be forwarded to you.
Prison Kitchen [back to content menu]
Comprehensive recommendations regarding the storage and handling of vegan food have been agreed by the VPSG and HMPS Catering Department - Corby. Have had them installed in PSO5000. This information is included in the above mentioned Catering Information Pack. Copy of PSO5000 available from the VPSG free on request. (a donation towards printing and postage is appreciated)
However, some guidelines are mentioned below for your guidance:
Canteen [back to content menu]
Canteen sheets are issued on a weekly basis in order for prisoners to order food items/toiletries. The amount you are allowed to spend will vary from prison to prison as will the items that will be allowed.
If difficulty is experienced the VPSG can assist prisoners in trying to obtain certain vegan nutritional food items/toiletries through their canteen.
Prisoners' shops/canteens should make every effort to stock food, toiletries and other items for which there is a demand from ethnic minority prisoners. These might include oils and creams for toiletry purposes, a variety of fruit produce and items such as non-Christian greeting cards. Where prisoners request items which are not stocked, prison shops can order them through a supplier. Vegan products, especially food items and toiletries, should also be available either as a stock item or by arranging for goods to be ordered for prisoners.
In general, all items for prisoners should be purchased through the prison shop. An exception to this is made when shopping for ethnic minority goods where these would not otherwise be available [see IG 72/1994].
Advice on minority diets and wholesale outlets for the purchase of ethnic minority goods may be obtained from Supply and Transport Services, who should also be able to offer advice on the supply of vegan products.
Healthcare [back to content menu]
You will then be taken to Healthcare and be seen by a doctor. At this point make sure that it has been put on your files that you are vegan. Also remember to inform them if you need to arrange any herbal remedies. If you are having problems in this area the VPSG may be able to help.
Vitamins/Basic Nutrition [back to content menu]
Shortly after your arrival you will receive from VPSG some Diet Sheet Records. This information will help assess the nutritional value of the prison food you are being provided with. It is helpful to us if prisoners complete these and return them for the full 3 / 4 week menu cycle. The Diet Sheet Records may be copied by us and used in order to ensure a nutritional diet is provided.
If individual prisoners feel they require extra vitamin requirements these should be requested through Healthcare. If this avenue is not feasible these should be ordered through the Canteen for your purchase [See note in Prison Service Guidelines] or the VPSG may be able to send you in VEG1.
Basic Nutritional Information Relating to the Vegan Diet: See Attachment 2.
Visits [back to content menu]
Status Level [back to content menu]
There are three status levels that you can be at as a prisoner:
The higher your status the more privileges you get, for example more visits.
For your information all behaviour in breach of prison rules is documented in your personal file during the whole sentence.
Courses [back to content menu]
Once you have seen Sentence Planning you may be required to undertake certain courses. They can help with tagging if you are doing a sentence over 4 months and under 4 years. For any sentence over 4 years, you will be automatically released at the halfway point. For IPP sentences, speak to your lawyer.
Education [back to content menu]
Prison education could present you with a chance to enhance your academic abilities. It is also important as a way to keep your mind active.
There may also be the opportunity to learn computer skills which can be an advantage on your release and also A Level Courses according to the length of your sentence.
Access to Open University Courses is also a possibility with the added bonus of payment for the course being available from the Prison Education Trust. If a second OU is undertaken the Home Office will pay. Prisons won't pay for correspondence courses until you are sentenced.
Dealing with problems
Personal Officer [back to content menu]
Your Personal Officer should be your first port of call if problems arise. They are in effect the first step in any process of complaint or request you may wish to make. Your Personal Officer will also be the one to monitor your progress through your sentence and complete paperwork concerning such things as Home Detention Curfew [HDC].
Request/Complaints Forms [back to content menu]
These forms are to be completed when other channels of complaint have failed. These [if not readily available] should be issued to you within 7 days of applying and a reply should be received within 3 days of completion.
Once your reply is received if you are not happy with the response the next step is to fill in an appeal to your complaint, and then appeal to the Governor. Normally at this stage it will be settled amicably. The next step is the Ombudsman. This must be done within one month of receiving your final response. You can also request that the Prison Ombudsman investigate your complaint if the Prison Service does not reply to you within the 6 week maximum deadline.
Note: You can also make an application to see the Board of Visitors who may be able to assist.
Ombudsman [back to content menu]
The Prison Ombudsman is an independent official responsible for considering complaints from prisoners about almost any aspect of their treatment in prison.
The Ombudsman cannot consider complaints made about outside bodies such as the police or the courts.
You must contact The Ombudsman yourself. He/she cannot consider complaints made by prisoners, families or friends.
[For further information see Prisoners Information Book]
Guidelines [back to content menu]
Initially your personal officer should be given the opportunity to sort out any vegan related problems you may be experiencing. It is recommended that you keep an accurate note of any applications, discussions and commitments in a diary so that if VPSG need to become involved, they have the history of the situation.
It is recommended that you consider trying to build a working relationship with your Personal Officer, the S.O [Senior Officer], P.O [Principle Officer], Governors and kitchen staff if possible to try to ensure that results are achieved as quickly as possible.
If you have a genuine problem you are unable to sort out through the normal channels within prison then contact the following:
Supplying them with the above mentioned diary of events.
The Vegan Society [back to content menu]
Membership of the undermentioned society is no longer necessary in order to obtain a vegan diet so membership is optional.
The Vegan Society,
(Updated November 2008)