Guidance

Belmarsh Prison

Belmarsh is a high security men’s prison in southeast London.

Prison visits are temporarily suspended following instructions for people to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives. We will update here as soon as this changes. You can also follow @HMPPS on Twitter and read a rolling update page.

There are a number of other ways to contact someone in prison if you are unable to visit them. You can:

You can also contact the Prisoners’ Families Helpline on 0808 808 2003.

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Book and plan your visit to Belmarsh

To visit someone in Belmarsh you must:

  • be on that person’s visitor list
  • book your visit in advance
  • have the required ID with you when you go

A visit can be booked up to 3 weeks in advance.

At least one visitor must be 18 or older at every visit. A maximum of 3 adults 18 or over, plus 3 children, can visit at one time.

A convicted resident can have a visit every 2 weeks.

A resident on remand/awaiting trial can have 3 visits a week.

Contact Belmarsh if you have any questions about visiting.

Help with the cost of your visit

If you get certain benefits or have an NHS health certificate, you might be able to get help with the costs of your visit, including:

  • travel to Belmarsh
  • somewhere to stay overnight
  • meals

How to book family and friends visits

You can book your visit online.

You can also book by telephone.

Booking line: 0208 331 4760 or 0208 331 4773
Monday to Thursday, 10am to 4pm and Fridays, 10am to 12:30pm
Find out about call charges

You can also book at the visitors centre when you visit Belmarsh.

Give yourself 30 minutes before the time of your visit to go through security and check in.

Visiting times:

  • Tuesday: 9:15am to 11:15am, 2:15pm to 4:15pm
  • Wednesday: 9:15am to 11:15am, 2:15pm to 4:15pm
  • Thursday: 9:15am to 11:15am, 2:15pm to 4:15pm
  • Friday: 9am to 10:30am (vulnerable residents only)
  • Saturday: 9:15am to 11:15am (vulnerable residents only), 2:15pm to 4:15pm
  • Sunday: 2:15pm to 4:15pm

High security unit and special security unit:

  • Tuesday: 9:15am to 11:15am, 2:15pm to 4:15pm
  • Thursday: 9:15am to 11:15am, 2:15pm to 4:15pm
  • Saturday: 2:15pm to 4:15pm
  • Sunday: 2:15pm to 4:15pm

For morning sessions, you can check in between 8:30am and 9:15am.

For afternoon sessions, you can check in between 12:30pm and 2:15pm.

You may be refused entry if you are late.

Email: legalvisits.belmarsh@justice.gov.uk

You can also book by telephone.

Booking line: 0208 331 4750
Monday to Thursday, 10am to 4pm and Friday, 10am to 12:30pm
Find out about call charges

Visiting times:

  • Tuesday: 9:15am to 10:15am, 10:15am to 11:15am, 2:15pm to 3:15pm, 3:15pm to 4:15pm
  • Wednesday: 9:15am to 10:15am, 10:15am to 11:15am, 2:15pm to 3:15pm, 3:15pm to 4:15pm
  • Thursday: 9:15am to 10:15am, 10:15am to 11:15am, 2:15pm to 3:15pm, 3:15pm to 4:15pm
  • Friday: 9:15am to 11am.

Visits for the high security unit and special security unit are on Tuesday and Thursday only.

Solicitors can bring laptops in with them.

Getting to Belmarsh

Find Belmarsh on a map

The closest railway stations are Woolwich Arsenal and Plumstead. From Plumstead, you can walk to Belmarsh, or from Woolwich Arsenal you can take a bus.

To plan your journey by public transport:

There is a visitors car park with spaces for Blue Badge holders.

Entering Belmarsh

All visitors aged 16 and older need to bring one of the following types of photo ID:

  • passport
  • driving licence
  • benefit book
  • senior citizen’s public transport pass
  • annual public transport season ticket (with photo card)
  • employer ID card (if it shows the name of the visitor and the employer)
  • European Community identity card

You will also need 2 types of proof of address from the last 3 months.

All visitors will need to be given a pat-down search, including children. On your first visit, you will have your photo taken. You may have your fingerprints taken and an eye scan. You may also be sniffed by security dogs.

Belmarsh has a strict dress code policy, which means visitors should wear smart, family-friendly clothes (no ripped clothing, no vests, no low-cut tops, no shorts, no short dresses, no sports team clothing, no watches, only minimal jewellery, no offensive slogans and no headwear, other than that worn for religious reasons).

Each adult visitor is allowed to take in a maximum of £25 in cash but only up to a maximum of £45. The money can be used to buy food and drink from the refreshment bar in the visiting hall.

There are strict controls on what you can take into Belmarsh. You will have to leave most of the things you have with you in a locker (you will need a £1 coin) or with security. This includes pushchairs and car seats.

You will be told the rules by an officer at the start of your visit. If you break the rules, your visit could be cancelled and you could be banned from visiting again.

Visiting facilities

There is a family-friendly visitors centre run by the Prison Advice and Care Trust (PACT).

Visitors are offered information, support and informal help. There is a children’s play area in the visiting hall staffed by play workers and a tea bar which is run by the Samaritans.

Telephone: 0208 317 3888
Email: belmarsh@prisonadvice.org.uk

Family days

Family days are longer visits in a more relaxed setting so that families can spend quality time together.

There is a family day (10am to 3pm) every month at Belmarsh, with one especially for vulnerable prisoners during the course of the year.

Ask at the visitors centre for more information.

Keep in touch with someone at Belmarsh

There are several ways you can keep in touch with a resident during their time at Belmarsh.

Phone calls

Residents have phones in their rooms but will always have to call you. They have to buy phone credits to do this. The phones are inactive after 10pm, but available at many times during the day.

They can phone anyone named on their list of friends and family. This list is checked by security when they first arrive so it may take a few days before they are able to call. This can take longer depending on individual cases.

You can also exchange voicemails using the Prison Voicemail service.

Officers may listen to phone calls as a way of preventing crime and helping keep people safe.

Email

You can send emails to someone in Belmarsh using the Email a Prisoner service.

Letters

You can write at any time.

Include the person’s name and prisoner number (or date of birth) on the envelope. You must also write your own name and address on the back of the envelope.

All post, apart from legal letters, will be opened and checked by officers.

Send money and gifts

You can use the free and fast online service to send money to someone in prison.

Money can be sent in through the post by cheque or postal order if made payable to HMPPS or NOMS Agency.

Gifts and parcels

Prisoners are not allowed to have parcels sent into Belmarsh unless there is an exceptional circumstance.

Residents are able to buy items from catalogues of approved suppliers.

Life at Belmarsh

Belmarsh is committed to providing a safe and educational environment where men can learn new skills to help them on release.

Security and safeguarding

Every person at Belmarsh has a right to feel safe. The staff are responsible for their safeguarding and welfare at all times.

All safeguarding processes are overseen by Greenwich Safeguarding Adults Board.

Arrival and first night

When a resident first arrives at Belmarsh, they will be able to contact a family member by phone. This could be quite late in the evening, depending on the time they arrive.

In some cases, a phone call can be made by a member of staff at the resident’s request.

They will get to speak to someone who will check how they’re feeling and ask about any immediate health and wellbeing needs.

Induction

Each person who arrives at Belmarsh gets an induction that lasts about a week. They will meet professionals who will help them with:

  • health and wellbeing, including mental and sexual health
  • any substance misuse issues, including drugs and alcohol
  • personal development in custody and on release, including skills, education and training
  • other support (sometimes called ‘interventions’), such as managing difficult emotions

Everyone also finds out about the rules, fire safety, and how things like calls and visits work.

Accommodation

Around 900 men live at Belmarsh, across 4 main units, made up of single, double and triple rooms.

Education and work

Men in Belmarsh can access education, workshops and gym activities.

There is a detoxification and drug support service that can continue to offer support after release through community links.

Residents are offered help to resettle by working with agencies in the following areas:

  • accommodation
  • education
  • training
  • employment
  • health
  • children and families
  • finance, benefits and debt
  • attitudes, thinking and behaviour
  • victims of domestic violence
  • victims of sex work
  • mentoring in custody and on release

There is a listener scheme for residents at risk from suicide or self-harm.

There is a support group for foreign nationals and they can get advice on immigration law.

Temporary release

Residents can apply for Release on Temporary Licence (ROTL) and will be assessed individually in accordance with the strict regulation framework.

Organisations Belmarsh works with

We have strong links with Spark Inside and SwitchBack who offer mentoring and coaching services for young men in our care. Through the Gate continues this support after release.

The Shannon Trust helps by training residents to work with others to improve their reading skills.

Support for family and friends

Find out about advice and helplines for family and friends.

Support at Belmarsh

The Prison Advice and Care Trust (PACT) offers support, information and guidance about prison visits to friends and family.

Telephone (PACT) : 020 8317 3888

Problems and complaints

If you have a problem contact Belmarsh. If you cannot resolve the problem directly, you can make a complaint to HM Prison and Probation Service.

HM Prison and Probation Service publishes action plans for Belmarsh in response to independent inspections.

Contact Belmarsh

Governor: Rob Davis

Telephone: 020 8331 4400
Monday to Friday, 7am to 8pm, weekends, 7am to 5pm
Fax: 020 8331 4401
Find out about call charges

Email: businesshub.belmarsh@justice.gov.uk

Twitter: Follow Belmarsh on Twitter

Address

HMP Belmarsh
Western Way
Thamesmead
London
SE28 0EB

See map

Safer custody hotline

If you have concerns about the safety or wellbeing of a man in Belmarsh, call the safer custody hotline and leave a message. Someone will call you back within 24 hours.

Telephone: 0208 331 4890
Monday to Friday, 8am to 4pm, weekends from 8am to midday

Email: safercustody-belmarsh@justice.gov.uk

In an emergency, call 0208 331 4781 or 0208 331 4406.

Published 19 May 2020