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November 19, 2009

Prisoners can make a complaint if they have any problems. There are two basic ways for prisoners to make a complaint. They can use internal prison procedures or go outside the prison system – to their MP for example.

The prison system for making a complaint

Talking to a member of staff

As a first step, prisoners should talk to a member of staff – preferably their personal officer if they have one. Lots of problems are dealt with very simply and quickly in this way. If the matter cannot be sorted out like this prisoners can make an application to their landing officer or wing manager.

The landing officer or wing manager will discuss the request or complaint with the prisoner on the same day.

If they cannot help and the prisoner is still unhappy about it, they can make a governor’s application. A senior member of the prison’s staff will then speak to the prisoner. They may also ask to speak to the medical officer, chaplain or a member of the Board of Visitors. If, after all of this the outcome is still not satisfactory, prisoners will be advised on how they can take the matter further.

Formal complaints

The next stage will be for the prisoner to make a written complaint. A form for making a complaint tells the prisoner how to complete and return it. Each formal complaint will be returned to them with a reply, which they should receive within seven days. The reply may not be the full answer to their problem, but should at least tell them when they can expect a full reply. If their complaint is rejected, they should be given reasons.

Prisons and Probation Ombudsman (PPO)

The Ombudsman is appointed by the Home Secretary, and is an independent point of appeal for prisoners and those supervised by the Probation Service.For the purpose of investigations, the Ombudsman has full access to Prison Service information, documents, establishments and individuals, including classified material and information provided to the Prison Service by other organisations, such as the police. For medical records, the prisoner’s consent is required for disclosure.

You can find out more about the Ombudsman on the PPO website http://www.ppo.gov.uk/