In the United Kingdom, prisoners are divided into four categories of security. Every adult in prison is assigned a different category, all depending on the crime they committed, the sentence, the risk of escape, and violent tendencies. The higher the category, the worse the convictions are.
There are three different prison services in the United Kingdom, and separate services for the three Crown Dependencies. Her Majesty's Prison Service manages prisons in England and Wales, and also serves as the National Offender Management Service for England and Wales. Prisons in Scotland are managed by the Scottish Prison Service and prisons in Northern Ireland are managed by the Northern Ireland Prison Service. The Isle of Man and the Channel Islands have their own prison administrations.
Male adult prisoners (those aged 18 or over) are given a security categorisation soon after they enter prison. These categories are based on a combination of the type of crime committed, the length of sentence, the likelihood of escape, and the danger to the public if they were to escape. The four categories are:
|Prison type||Category||Prison description|
|Those whose escape would be highly dangerous to the public or national security. Offences that may result in consideration for Category A or Restricted Status include [Attempted] Murder, Manslaughter, [Attempted] Rape, Sexual Assault, Armed robbery, Wounding with intent, Kidnapping, Importing or supplying Class A controlled drugs, Possessing or supplying explosives, Offences connected with terrorism and Offences under the Official Secrets Act|
|B||Those who pose a risk to the public but may not require maximum security, but for whom escape still needs to be made very difficult.|
|C||Those who cannot be trusted in open conditions but who are unlikely to try to escape|
|Open prison||D||Those who can be reasonably trusted not to try to escape, and are given the privilege of an open prison. Prisoners at "D Cat." (as it is commonly known) prisons, are, subject to approval, given ROTL (Release On Temporary Licence) to work in the community or to go on "home leave" once they have passed their FLED (Full Licence Eligibility Dates), which is usually a quarter of the way through the sentence.|
Category A, B and C prisons are called closed prisons, whereas category D prisons are called open prisons.
Category A prisoners are further divided into Standard Risk, High Risk, and Exceptional Risk, based on their likelihood of escaping.
Men on remand are held in Category B conditions with the exception of some of those who are held to be tried on (very) serious offences. These men are held in "Provisional Category A" conditions.
Prisoners who have made active attempts to escape from custody are placed on the holding prison's Escape List. These prisoners (sometimes referred to as "E men" or "E List men") are required to wear distinctive, brightly coloured clothing when being moved both inside and outside of the prison and are handcuffed. In addition they are required to change cells frequently and to have their clothes and some of their personal property removed from their cell before being locked in for the night.
Women are also classified into four categories. These categories are:
Remand prisoners are always held in closed prisons.
When children and young people are sentenced or remanded in custody, they may be sent to one of four types of establishment depending on their needs, age, vulnerability and the nature of the offence they have been accused or convicted of:
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Prisoners (adult and young, male and female) are classified in a similar way to the English/Welsh system:
|A||Prisoners whose escape would be highly dangerous to the public, the police or the security of the state|
|B||Prisoners for whom the very highest conditions of security are not necessary but for whom escape must be made very difficult|
|C||Prisoners who cannot be trusted in open conditions but who do not have the resources or will to make a determined escape attempt|
|D||Prisoners who can reasonably be trusted in open conditions. However, there are at present no open prisons in Northern Ireland.|
|U||Remand, awaiting trial (also known as "hold for court") or awaiting sentence prisoners are Unclassified (U), although they are placed in Category A or B conditions.|