500 tips for convicts

A short guide for people sent to a UK prison for the first time

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6. Chapter 5. Getting away with it.

Despite your best effort, you may find yourself in trouble and on a charge. DO NOT PANIC. Some charges are obviously more serious than others. If you are charged with any offence, study carefully the charge sheet. One of the most misunderstood charges relates to being late back from home leave. That is NOT the charge. The exact wording of the charge is all important. If you are late back following a home leave, the actual charge reads "failing to comply with conditions of parole". If you are late due to unforeseen circumstances, and have telephoned the prison to say you are delayed, invariably you will be told to get back when you can. Make sure that the call is logged. By telling you to get back when you can, the prison officer has effectively varied your conditions of parole. This is a successful defence when you are later charged. The vast majority of cons plead guilty (and this includes some barristers that I know) and results in a fine and loss of a couple of weeks remission. A few years ago, several cons were late back from home leave because all trains travelling via the Severn tunnel were delayed as a result of a land slip. All except one pleaded guilty to failing to comply with parole conditions. They all received £5.00 fines (a lot of money when you are in prison ) and lost two weeks of remission. The only one to get away with it was the author. The governor was astonished to receive a not guilty plea. "But you were late back", he exclaimed. "Yes Guv., but that's not what I've been charged with. I telephoned to say I would be late. The officer on the gate told me to get back when I could. That varied the conditions of my parole, therefore I am not guilty" The Governor had to agree, and the charge was dismissed.

If for any reason you find yourself guilty of a charge and told that you will lose some remission, do not despair. After a short period of good behaviour you will be eligible to apply for any lost remission to be returned to you. You will not get all of your lost remission back in one go. The usual procedure is to reserve some lost remission to ensure future good behaviour. This means that if you have lost two weeks remission as a result of a "misunderstanding", you may get ten days back and told to apply for the remaining four days at some future date. This system rarely works, however. What is four days if you are serving a five year sentence?.

Other punishments that can be levied at the Governor's discretion may include periods to be spent "down the block", loss of privilege visits, or the imposition of closed visits for a set period. Severe infringements of the prison rules may involve the local police and may even mean that your sentence could be increased, so try and act within the rules!

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