Getting Into the Prison



Revised June 2022.  The content of this page reflects the changes in procedure that have occurred since our volunteers last went into the prison before the COVID-19 pandemic.  At the time of writing, the mandatory use of face coverings and routine testing has been withdrawn.  Obviously, should they be re-introduced then the procedure for gaining entry to the prison will be modified, and you will need to comply with the revised arrangements.

Make sure you have read and understood the FOPP Volunteers Handbook, are dressed appropriately, and are aware of what you are allowed to take in with you and what items are prohibited.  Go back to the First Days page and read the appropriate sections if you are at all unsure.

All people going into the secure areas of the prison (officers, staff, legal and other professionals, volunteers and visitors) go through the same security/search procedure.   Those heading for the Visits Hall will find useful information on how the visiting system works in HMP Peterborough on this page of the Sodexo website (opens iin new tab).

Our Volunteer Coordinator will arrange for you to be photographed and fingerprinted by the prison security department.  The photograph appears on your FOPP identity badge along with your forename – we don’t divulge surnames to people in prison.  A digital record of your fingerprint is uploaded to the prison biometric entry system to allow you access through the ‘airlocks’ into the secure parts of the prison (see below).  You will usually have the index finger of both hands recorded, with either one allowing you access.  If your index finger won’t produce a clear scan image, the person carrying out the procedure may choose to use one of your other fingers instead.

You mustn’t have anything in your pockets.  If you are volunteering in the Visits Hall you are not allowed to take anything in with you other than your locker key.  If you are volunteering in other parts of the prison (e.g. education departments) then everything you are taking into the prison must be placed in your clear plastic satchel (issued to you by FOPP).  You will be subjected to the same kind of search that you might be familiar with when passing through an airport passenger terminal. 

You should remove your coat, belt and watch (if permitted – see Prohibited Items) and place them, and your clear plastic satchel in one or more of the blue plastic trays by the X-Ray scanner.  Place the tray(s) on the conveyor into the X-Ray scanner and move down towards the inspecting officer, who will check the items before allowing you through the body scanner into the waiting area. 

You will then undergo a pat-down full body search, during which you will be asked to raise your outstretched arms, both facing the officer and facing away from the officer, while the search is conducted.  Ladies will be searched by a female officer, but gentlemen may be searched by either a male or female officer.

Before you are shown through the exit make the officer aware that you are a volunteer and in which area you are volunteering.  If you are volunteering in the Visits Hall you will be guided across the yard to the Visits Hall, along with any visitors.  If you are volunteering in any other part of the prison you will be directed to the gatehouse (read next item).

Access to the secure areas of the prison (except for the Visits Halls) is through a double-airlock arrangement with 3 doors, adjacent to the gatehouse.  The first (sliding) door is controlled by the gatehouse staff.  You must then actuate the second, automatic glass barrier by placing your index finger on the scanner beside the barrier.  Everyone (including the Prison Director himself) going into the prison has to submit to this biometric access and checking procedure.

Depending how many people are going through, you may have to wait before the security staff open the third (sliding) door to let you through into the corridor leading to the “Loop” (staff rest room/waiting area) where you must wait until your escorting member of staff arrives.

You will not be able to go into the secure areas of the prison without an officer or member of staff accompanying you.  Volunteers are not issued with keys, so we have to be escorted by an officer or member of staff. You must wear your FOPP identity badge on a lanyard around your neck and show it to the security staff before they will allow you through the main entrance.  Your I/D Badge must be clearly visible at all times while in the prison.

To reach any part of the prison you will pass through several sets of locked gates and doors.  Keep close to your escort at all times, as he/she is personally responsible for your safety as you move through the various parts of the prison and must make sure that you haven’t been left behind or gone ahead to tag along with another officer.

In addition to the  routine search on the way in, anyone can be subjected to an additional search by security staff at any time.  This may include a full “pat-down” body search, emptying the contents of your pockets, looking through any bag or container you may be carrying, and/or receiving the attention of a specially trained dog to check if you are carrying drugs.

Do not attempt to take anything into the prison that is on the Prohibited Items list (see next item), as this can constitute a criminal offence. 

The list of prohibited items is updated from time to time, therefore the list shown below may not be up to date and you should refer to the latest version, which will be displayed prominently in the prison building.

Leaving the prison is very much like entering it.  People from the Visits Hall will be escorted to the gatehouse entry/prison exit.  Volunuteers leaving other areas (such as the education departments) will be escorted to the gatehouse air-lock.  You will again need to show your FOPP badge to the security staff before they will open the door into the airlock.  You use the fingerprint scanner again to allow you past the automatic barrier and must then wait for the final door to be opened by the gatehouse staff.  You are then free to leave the building or go to your locker and retrieve your personal items.  Don’t forget to take your token or coin from the locker door!

Click the button and read on to learn more about what it’s like to volunteer here…


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