Can a Prisoner Attend a Funeral? Rules and Regulations

Prison Info

It’s not uncommon for individuals serving a prison sentence to lose a loved one while in incarceration. They often wonder about their eligibility to attend the respective funeral. This piece will shed some light on the UK’s regulations and practices around this sensitive issue.

Can a Prisoner Attend a Funeral? The Basic Right

In the United Kingdom, prisoners are generally granted the right to attend a funeral of an immediate family member under the jurisdiction of the Prison Service Order (PSO) 6300. These immediate family members include parents, siblings, children, life partners, and exceptionally, close friends or extended family. However, it’s not an automatic right; the decision to permit a prisoner for a temporary release ‘on licence’ falls in the hands of the prison governor who evaluates individual requests under criteria that balance compassionate grounds with security risks.

More often, prisoners serving short sentences, on remand, or nearing the end of their term can hope for a favourable judgement. But for those serving long term sentences or labelled as ‘high risk’ based on their potential to abscond or commit further crime, the scales might tip otherwise.

Process of Obtaining Permission

A prisoner, upon receiving the unfortunate news of the demise of an immediate family member, is required to follow a formal process to be able to attend the funeral. The process typically starts with the prisoner formally notifying the prison staff about the bereavement and expressing the desire to attend the funeral. The prisoner may be required to provide proof of relationship and/or details of the bereavement. Once submitted, the prison governor conducts a thorough risk assessment before passing a judgement.

Risk Assessment

The risk assessment measures the potential security risks and categorises the prisoner based on likelihood of absconding, harm to public, and risk of reoffending. The assessment considers multiple factors, such as the behaviour of the individual while in prison, the nature, seriousness and circumstances of the offence(s) that the prisoner is liable for, and the prisoner’s history or potential of committing an offence while out of prison.

Physical Restraints and Supervision

If a prisoner is granted permission to attend the funeral, they are escorted by prison officers and must remain under constant supervision. They may also have physical restraints like handcuffs in the interest of public safety. In some scenarios, the restraints may be momentarily removed for the funeral service under the officers’ discretion. This precaution is particularly exercised for prisoners serving sentences for severe or violent crimes, or have a history or likeliness of escape attempts while out of jail.

Are There Any Costs Involved?

Prisoners on temporary release, attending a funeral, or for other compassionate reasons are typically escorted by prison officers. The cost of the escort, including transportation and staffing, may be borne by the prison service. However, this practice is subject to availability of resources and the discretion of the prison authorities.

Other Compassion-based Temporary Releases

Apart from attending funerals, similar compassion-based temporary releases may be granted for a prisoner to visit a critically ill family member or for other humanitarian reasons – like seeing a family member who is not able to travel due to severe illness. Again, the ultimate authority lies with the prison governor who makes decisions based on potential security risks.

In conclusion, while the UK prisons system recognises the emotional need of a prisoner to attend the funeral of an immediate family member, and has provisions to enable this, it also upholds the need to maintain public safety and order. Therefore, all requests are assessed seriously and judiciously, keeping several factors in mind.

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