Visiting someone in prison

Visiting someone in prison

Prison visits are an important part of helping prisoners to stay in contact with their families. Prisoners are entitled to visits from families and friends. They are also entitled to legal and chaplaincy visits.

How to arrange a visit

Prisoners are given a booking reference number which they must pass on in advance to their intended visitor. You should quote this number when booking a visit. No reference number is needed for the first committal visit.

To book a visit you should contact the relevant prison:

  • Maghaberry Prison - 028 9261 1888
  • Magilligan Prison - 028 7776 3311
  • Hydebank Wood - 028 9025 3666

The names of all people including the names and ages of children intending to visit should be given in advance.

Special requirements

If you have special requirements, such as needing wheelchair access, you should inform the prison when making the booking. This will enable the prison to make suitable arrangements in advance of the visit.

Child centred visits

Child centred visits create special opportunities for parents or grandparents to bond with their children or grandchildren. Prison staff in the visits area can provide more information about child centred visits or you can find information on the following nidirect page:

Extended visits scheme for mothers and children

In addition to normal domestic visits, and child centred visits, mothers in custody can apply to participate in the extended visits scheme for mothers and children. Any woman with a child under the age of 18 can apply to participate in the scheme but each application will be considered on its individual merits.

More information about the extended visits scheme for mothers and children is available from prison staff in the visits area.

Arriving for your prison visit


All adult visitors, aged 18 and over, will have to provide photographic evidence of their identity on their first visit, such as:

  • driving licence
  • passport
  • electoral card identity card
  • senior citizen’s smart pass
  • citizen’s card

You will be photographed for record purposes and have your finger scanned to enrol you on the visiting system. You should allow a little extra time on arrival to your first visit to be enrolled on the system.

After being enrolled, your identity will be checked before you enter the visits room and again when you are leaving the room. This simply involves your finger-scan being checked by staff and only takes a few seconds.

The finger-scan is not a fingerprint and will not be used for any other purpose than to identify the visitors to prison staff. Your photograph and finger-scan will remain on the system for future visits and as a result you will not have to bring photographic identification every time you visit.

Children aged under 18 may be photographed and have their finger scanned to enrol them on the system and if unaccompanied by an adult will also be required to provide photographic identification.

Search procedures

Searches are essential to help maintain the safety of prisoners, visitors and staff.

When visiting a prison you will have to go through a full rub-down search on arrival and will also be searched by a passive drug dog.

Passive drug dogs are trained to detect drugs and will search for any banned substances. The dogs will not come in contact with visitors but will detect by scent under the control of its handler. If a dog makes a positive indication you will be offered either a closed visit, the opportunity to re-schedule the visit or not to take the visit.

The senior prison officer on duty has the authority to end a visit if a visitor or prisoner fails to comply with prison rules during visits.

Personal belongings

You will have to leave your personal belongings in the specially provided area of each prison. You will be allowed to bring up to 12 in 1 coins in order to buy snacks.

Parcels for prisoners will be collected and thoroughly searched before being given to prisoners.

What a visitor can bring for prisoners

You can bring money to be added to a prisoners personal account. Money must be left at the visitors reception. No money will be accepted by post.

Money in a prisoners personal account can then be spent on items such as:

  • telephone calls
  • groceries
  • cigarettes
  • radios

You can also sign in clothing parcels at the visits reception. As all laundry is carried out within the prison, all clothing must be machine washable.

If you are unsure what can or cannot be brought for a prisoner you are visiting contact the relevant prison.

Contribution towards travel costs

In certain circumstances visitors may be entitled to help with the cost of travelling to a prison visit. More information is available from local social security offices.

  • Help with travelling costs