Going to prison for the first time? How to cope

If you’re facing a possible prison sentence and going to prison for the first time it can be a daunting prospect. It is better to be prepared so we have provided you with a quick guide and some initial information and advice below:

What is Going to Prison Like?

Going to prison in vanGoing to prison for the first time is a highly intimidating prospect. There will be a mixture of emotions ranging from confusion to fear. Prison life is a whole new way of living in an environment that can seem totally alien to life on the outside.

New rules apply from both the prison official and the new found peer group. The most important point you should understand is that prison is not easy, but it is survivable, and can be quite enlightening.

How can I survive in prison?

Surviving in prison is all about understanding the “system”, understanding the rules and the logic governing the system, adapting to it and conforming as quickly as possible. It is also about coming to terms with your new status and understanding the measures that have brought about this extreme change in life. Surviving prison is also about understanding that vast range of characters that will form your new peer group, coming to terms with their coping mechanisms and foreseeing areas that can lead to conflict and can make prison life difficult and dangerous.

What is it like in prison?

Leeds Prison gatePrison life is not easy, however it is as easy or as difficult as you decide you want it to be. Prison by definition is a dangerous place to live, full of individuals living in close quarters under extreme personal circumstances. The simplest of things that are taken for granted in normal life outside of prison now take on new meaning and importance which is extremely daunting at the outset.

Normal daily routines such as eating, cleaning, moving about now take on a whole new importance around the daily regime. A routine that can disturbed and changed without notice therefore the life skills of patience and understanding become a daily coping mechanism. For details of prisons in the UK and Wales see the Ministry of Justice web site.



Tips and advice for first time prisoners


  • Do be prepared even if it is not certain that a prison sentence is likely

  • Do get advice from those who have experienced prison, not just ex offenders but also prison officials.

  • Do organise your personal affairs such as banks, insurance, HMRC as communication will become very difficult

  • Do speak to family and loved ones; prepare them as well as they will serve the sentence with you in their own way. Get them to seek advice as well as when they understand what is happening to you they will also find it easier to cope


  • Don’t ignore the inevitable or likely

  • Don’t worry about the future, try and understand it and work towards it

  • Don’t encroach in other peoples space whilst in prison, respect other peoples personal space

  • Don’t get involved in anything that may bring about repercussions i.e lend, borrow or talk about others or get involved in their business

How to deal with prison life

prison first time barb wire gateDealing with prison life is all about adapting to your new surroundings and understanding the complex regimes, laws, governing thought processes and emotions of all those around you. Learning the art of patience is crucial when dealing with all aspects of prison. The world outside is one that moves quickly, in prison life moves much more slowly.

How to cope with being inside

Coping with being inside prison is very much a personal thing. Some like to keep busy and like to fill their days with work and exercise, some will want to switch off from the world and all around them. Some find sanctuary in religion. The most important part of being in prison is serving your time in the best way that suits you. This is not an easy process and being armed with as much information as possible helps in making key decisions that can make the whole process far more acceptable and indeed bearable.

HM Prison Durham aerial viewA guide for those facing prison for the first time

This is a quick guide to going to prison for the first time and we hope that it has gone some way to help you understand the complex situation that you may find yourself in.

Further information, advice and help…

To obtain further information, advice and assistance for all that will be affected by this situation please contact Prison Consultants at www.prisonconsultants.co.uk or call us on 020 7717 5564.  All enquiries are treated confidentially and our advice and guidance is bespoke to the individuals situation and needs.