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What Happens When You Go To Jail?

What happens when you go to jail

It’s a heavy feeling realizing that you will end up in jail when you plead not guilty to the judge. Everyone has to pay the price of their crimes. And avoiding it will just make your sentence worse.  

That said, what happens when you go to jail?


After your sentence you’ll go from court to the nearest reception prison, where you’ll spend your first few nights behind bars. 

You may be relocated to a different prison depending on the crime you committed, the level of security of the prison, the length of your sentence, and other factors to take into consideration.

Upon your arrival in prison, officers of the same sex will strip search you to ensure you are not concealing anything. It is a standard procedure, so don’t get too alarmed. 


The reception staff will sort out your belongings to determine what items you can bring to prison. Anything that will not pass will go directly to storage until your eventual release. If there is anything illegal, staff will dispose of it immediately. After that, the prison will issue you a list of clothing entitlements. You’ll have to sort out what clothes you want or are allowed to wear.

You can’t bring any money to your prison. Staff will instead keep it on your behalf in a private cash account. Your friends and relatives can send money to you using these accounts. Different prisons will have different rules on how much you can spend daily or weekly.


The prison will issue a prison number to you and give you a release date (EDL or Earliest Date of Release). In the UK, prisons can issue an electronic tag containing a qualifying release date called a Home Detention Curfew or HDC, depending on your sentence. 

The prison may also take your photo and fingerprints for the prison record. If you want to make phone calls, the prison staff will tell you how you can. The prison may also ask you to provide a list of who you want to call so they can check it.


The prison will provide you with the necessary health care you need, including a doctor and a nurse. And inform them with your current medications and prescriptions. You’ll have a chance to raise what medical concerns you have, physical or mental, like addiction and anxiety problems. 

If you feel worried or anxious once you arrive in prison, it’s essential you talk to someone about it. You can go to a prison chaplain if you want or inquire the prison staff to join a support group if there is one in your prison. In the UK, some professionals will talk and listen to your problems. They are called the Listeners, trained by the Samaritans. And their services are completely confidential. So prisoners can tell them anything.

Your First Night When You Go To Jail

After every procedure and orientations are complete, the prison may offer you a bath before taking you to a cell where you’ll spend your first night. 

Some will have a dedicated cell that houses new inmates before getting taken to a permanent one. But if the prison you’ll go to does not have such an option, they’ll provide you with a regular cell block.

The prison will allow you to buy essential items like toiletries and phone credit. These are basic packs and are limited to a certain number.

You can purchase other items in the weekly prison canteen. But you may have to wait a week before you can do so. The prison may also allow you to make a brief call to your family.

After Your First Night

The prison staff will now send you to your designated cell and hand out your beddings and your prison clothing if the prison requires it. You may have to share your cell with someone else, but the prison staff will ensure that your cellmate is suitable for you. So you won’t butt heads all the time.

Some UK prisons will allow you to smoke in designated smoking areas. Others will allow you to vape in your cell. But other western countries like the US and Canada will not allow it. You may request a cell transfer if you are not comfortable with your cellmate vaping.

It is your responsibility to clean your cell. And the prison will provide you with adequate cleaning materials to do such a task. Along with towels and bedding materials, washed every week.

In the UK, convicted prisoners are encouraged to join an induction program, allowing them to learn what happens on a day-to-day basis, what activities and programs are available, visiting hours, and the roles of certain staff. The US has something similar called an Admission and Orientation (A&O) Program to introduce inmates to all the aspects of an institution.

These programs will differ in each prison since most will have their own rules and regulations that prisoners will follow to maintain order. It is different from jail to jail.

You need to attend such programs. So you’ll know the ins and outs of the prison that holds you.

Can Your Condition Improve As Your Sentence Progresses?

Prison incentives are a must for all prisoners as they work their way with their sentence, like a better or single cell, additional visits, or a specific job. But such progression will depend on your behavior, prison sentence, and the available facilities. 

Incentives will differ in each prison, and the staff will explain them to you.

What Can You Bring Inside?

Different prisons will have rules on what inmates can bring into their cells. Some may allow you to read materials like newspapers and magazines, while others may allow a CD player or game console.

But remember, prison staff will often check your cells to ensure you don’t bring any non-permitted items.


No sane person wants to go to prison. But in the events that you do, it’s essential to prepare yourself to lessen your worries. So, if you know anyone who’s at risk of going to jail, sharing this article may help.

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