Order Ref: 4550 Introduction, Page

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2.1 This chapter provides instructions and advice on security issues as they impact on religious practice. It complements the information set out in the Security Manual and has been developed in liaison with Security Group at Prison Service Headquarters and the Prison Service Faith Advisers (Religious Consultative Services-RCSs) to the Prison Service.


Part I Searches Of The Person

Rub and Pat Down Searches


2.2 Searches of male prisoners with a religious or cultural objection to being searched by a female member of staff must be carried out by a male member of staff. In many faiths a male prisoner may find it unacceptable to be searched by a female member of staff. All female prisoners must be searched only by female staff.


2.3 Where male visitors have a religious or cultural objection to being searched by a woman, a male member of staff must carry out the search. All female visitors must be searched by a female member of staff.

Sessional Chaplains

2.4 Fee paid/sessional and volunteer Chaplains are subject to search but must be treated as official visitors. Refusal on their part to allow a proper search should normally mean that they are refused entry. However, the Prison Chaplain should be advised and the Duty Governor or a Functional Head (eg Head of Resettlement/Security) must be consulted before they are turned away.

Strip Searches


2.5 In accordance with the procedures set out in the Security Manual persons being strip searched must not be completely naked at any time.

Muslim prisoners

2.6 There have been specific enquiries regarding the strip-searching of Muslim prisoners, as the Qur’an forbids the nakedness of Muslims in front of others. Strip searches are allowed under Islamic law when such a search is necessary for the security and safety of the prison or of individuals.

Searching Religious or cultural headwear

2.7 In accordance with chapter one of the PSO (paragraph 1.44) prisoners should normally be allowed to wear religious/cultural headwear, (e.g. Sikh turbans, Jewish yarmulkes, Muslim caps, Muslim women’s headscarves, Rastafarian hats). Such headwear is subject to searching, but care must be taken to treat it with respect. (The Sikh turban, for instance, is a distinct religious entity and a unitary emblem of the Sikh faith.) All persons can have their religious headwear searched by a hand held metal detector.

Removal of headwear
Prisoners / Visitors / Chaplains
2.8 Religious headwear should be required to be removed only if there is an alarm that cannot be accounted for or if there is suspicion of concealed items.

This must be done in private and by officers of the same sex. An officer should not attempt to unwind or remove headwear. The person must be given the opportunity to remove or unwind it themself.
Veils and face coverings worn by visitors
2.9 Some female visitors, particularly those of the Muslim faith, will wear veils or other face coverings for religious reasons. They must not be made to uncover their faces or hair in public or in front of a man as this could cause serious offence and distress. When required for security or identification purposes, the removal of the veil or face covering must be done in private with only female staff present.

2.10 Following the removal of headwear, the person must be given the opportunity to use a mirror, and to have privacy and time to put it back on.

Good practice

2.11 To assist prisoners, staff and visitors, establishments should display in appropriate areas of the prison (e.g. reception, the gate, visits hall, visitors’ centres) information about the policy on the searching of religious headwear.

Part II Searches Using Dogs

Cell searches

2.12 In some faiths, most notably the Muslim faith, if dog hair or saliva comes in contact with an individual’s clothing or religious artefact, it renders these items defiled. If a dog touches such a prisoner they will wish to make ritual ablutions and change clothes. This must be allowed. If dogs are used in a cell search they should not be allowed to touch holy books and artefacts. The prisoner should be allowed to bring out religious artefacts from their cell so that the supporting staff can search them by hand before the cell is searched. Suspicion that the dogs have conveyed saliva to the book or object would make it defiled in many faiths. Bedding should be changed where the prisoner feels that it has been defiled.

Good Practice

2.13 Prisoners may be issued with, and allowed to cover holy books and artefacts in, a clear plastic pouch to prevent dogs touching them directly.

Dogs in visits area

2.14 Care must be taken that drug dogs do not touch a visitor whose beliefs would make this offensive to them, e.g. if they are of the Muslim faith.

Use of dogs during searches of chapels or multi- faith rooms

2.15 For routine searching arrangements, a member of the Chaplaincy team must be involved with the drawing up of a searching plan for chapels or multi-faith rooms, which should be included in the local searching document.

Dog searches and Friday Prayers - Muslims
2.16 If dogs are to be used to search Muslim prisoners attending Friday Prayers, facilities must be made available to allow them to wash and change clothes quickly (i.e. if they have been touched by the dog) so that they do not miss prayers.
Dogs searching members of the Chaplaincy team
2.17 It should be borne in mind that Muslim Chaplains are unlikely to be able to change clothes if they consider them to be contaminated by contact with a dog; they may not therefore be able to carry out their religious duties.

Part III Religious Books And Artefacts

2.18 For guidance on religious books and artefacts that are allowed in possession please see annexes to chapter one.


2.19 The Holy books and religious artefacts of any faith, while being subject to search, must be treated with respect. They should not be handled by dirty hands. Gloves may be worn if an officer needs to pick up any religious artefacts. Objects should not be put on the floor or with shoes or underclothes. The prisoner should be allowed to point out holy books and religious artefacts before the search. It is preferable for the prisoner or chaplain to show the book or object themselves when subject to a search.

(See Good Practice para. 2.13)

Buddha statues

2.20 Images of the Buddha are a key part of Buddhist religious practice and statues of the Buddha are allowed to be held in possession by Buddhist prisoners. Angulimala, the Buddhist Faith Adviser to the Prison Service (contact details in chapter 3 of the PSO) provides Buddha statues to Buddhist prisoners, through its Buddhist Chaplains. Buddha images must be handled carefully and with respect. They must not be picked up by the head and the enlightenment flame (the point on the head) must not be cut or filed.

Sikh Kirpan (small knife)

Sikh Chaplains

2.21 The Sikh Chaplain appointed to the prison may bring in his Kirpan (small knife) but this does not extend to other Sikhs visiting with him at festivals. Sikh Chaplains should be informed about this. The Kirpan must be small (not more than approximately 6” or 15.5 cms long, including the handle). Large Kirpans are not acceptable. The Kirpan must be secured to the body under the clothing. Gate/security staff should confirm that the Kirpan is being carried when the Sikh Chaplain enters and leaves the prison. If a Sikh Chaplain is required to remove his Kirpan as a part of the search he must be allowed to do so in private and it should not to be handled by anyone apart from the Sikh Chaplain. He should also be allowed privacy to put the Kirpan back on.


2.22 Apart from the Sikh Chaplain, other Sikh members of staff and Sikh visitors are not allowed to wear their Kirpan (small knife) inside the prison.

Good Practice

2.23 Restrictions on visitors wearing Kirpans should be publicised in an appropriate notice and in the visitors’ centre.

2.24 Small replicas of the kirpan may be made available at arrival at the gate or in the visitor’s centre.


2.25 Sikh prisoners are to be allowed to have only a representation of a Kirpan inlaid in metal on the comb (Khanga).


2.26 Incense should be allowed to be used by chaplains in group/corporate worship. In addition, prisoners who practise certain religions, specified below, should also be allowed to hold incense in their cells and use it for their private religious practice.



Chinese religions ( Taoism, Confucianism, Shaminism)


2.27 Governors must ensure that incense is added to establishments’ published facilities/privileges list and that those prisoners who practise the above religions shall be allowed to retain incense in their possession, regardless of their privilege level. Prisoners must only be allowed to have incense sticks or cones together with a suitable plate or holder. Incense in powder or granular form and carbon/iron pellets to ignite them must not be permitted.
2.28 Governors retain the discretion [under the provisions of Standing Order 4] not to allow an individual to have incense in his or her possession if it constitutes a risk to health, safety, security, good order or discipline. In assessing this, governors will need to have regard to the method of burning and the acceptability of any related items. If incense is withdrawn or withheld from a prisoner on any of these grounds an explanation must be provided to the prisoner concerned, in writing if the prisoner so requests, and recorded on the prisoners F2052.
2.29 Governors will also have discretion on the amount of incense that may reasonably be held in possession by prisoners. If large quantities of incense are delivered by chaplains, they may be stored and issued incrementally as required.
2.30 Incense has from the earliest times been an integral part of Buddhist worship, while for Hindus and the Chinese religions it is a traditional part of religious practice. However, it is recognised that occasionally followers of other religions may also request to use incense as part of their private worship. In these circumstances Governors should consider each case on its merits and may use local discretion regarding the use and retention of incense by such prisoners.
Handing in of Religious Artefacts/Books
2.31 Essential items of religious artefacts that are required by a prisoner to practise his/her faith may be handed in subject to security considerations.

Voluntary And Mandatory Drug Testing (MDT/VDT)

2.32 The MDT Manual (Mandatory Drug Testing For Prisoners: Manual of policy and procedures paragraphs 3.74 and 3.75) contains information on religious issues relevant to MDT. MDT Bulletins 28 and 29 provide updated guidance on Ramadan and religious observance respectively.

Part IV Corporate Worship

2.33 All areas used for corporate worship must be treated with respect. It is disrespectful to walk on prayer mats and officers should avoid doing so unless essential, e.g. to deal with a security incident.

2.34 Officers supervising Muslim prayers should not step on, or in front of the direction of, prayer mats unless an intervention becomes necessary for security reasons.
2.35 Radios should be fitted with earpieces to avoid disturbance of the service. Care must be taken that supervising officers do not talk unnecessarily or jangle keys during the worship.
2.36 Incense, candles and oil lamps are allowed for group worship in the chapel or multi faith room. Oil lamps may be subject to further examination. Oil candles are not permitted in any circumstances.
2.37 The Chaplain leading worship is in charge, but officers have the discretion to remove or control prisoners where necessary for security or safety reasons. This must be done sensitively to cause as little disruption as possible and having regard to paragraphs 2.33 to 2.35 above.

Good practice

2.38 As multi-faith rooms are used by some faiths in which shoes may be worn during services, prisons may wish to purchase dustsheets (to be used only for this purpose), to place on top of the carpet so that those faiths that use the floor can place prayer mats on the sheets instead of directly on the carpet. The sheets can then be put away and used again.

Part V - Food For Religious Services And Festivals (See PSO 5000 Catering paragraph 3.23.51)

2.39 Food for religious festivals should be provided by the prison in house where possible and appropriate, and always in consultation with the appropriate member of the chaplaincy team. Arrangements will already be in place for some of the main festivals e.g. Ramadan. Where provision cannot be made “in house”, arrangements must be made in consultation with the appropriate member of the Chaplaincy team, for the food to be brought in from a regulated source e.g. the Gurdwara Langar Kitchen, the Islamic Cultural Centre or Mosque kitchen and Halal restaurants. Where applicable the usual procurement rules apply: Chapter 11 of Finance PSO, 7500 refers.

2.40 Where food is brought in, it must be in containers that can be x rayed, if x-ray facilities are in place at the establishment.
2.41 The most usual occasions and the type of food that is brought in are as follows:
Sikh (This cannot be provided in house as by definition it needs to be prepared/blessed in the Gurdwara)
Kara Prashad

A blessed sweetmeat that is given to prisoners at each Sikh service in small amounts. This can only be supplied via the Sikh Chaplain and is considered to be sanctified food.


Simple vegetarian food prepared and blessed in a Gurdwara. This is eaten as an expression of fellowship and solidarity between the local Gurdwara and the prisoners. Sikh practice is that this should be served after the conclusion of a Sikh service, particularly on festival occasions

Ramadan Fast

Dates, fresh fruit and nuts are sometimes brought in by the Muslim Chaplain so that the prisoners may have a snack to break their fast at sunset.

2.42 For further details of religious dietary requirements please see Catering PSO 5000.
2.43 A checklist for providing food for religious festivals is attached at Appendix 1.
Appendix 1

Handing in of food for Religious Festivals and Services

Practical Guidance

The checklist below has been designed to help guide staff through the process of providing special food for the celebration of religious festivals and services. This should enable the relevant staff to assess whether food can be supplied in house by the catering team or brought in by a regulated, recognised source.

Tick box

OPTION 1. No Yes

Can the food be provided in house by the Catering Team, in

consultation with the appropriate member of the Chaplaincy team?

This option should always be considered first.
If no go to Option 2
If the food cannot be provided in-house, it is advised that the checklist is completed to ensure all interested parties are involved with the process.
a) Suggested people to be involved in the process:

Head of Inmate Activities/Resettlement/Regimes

Prison Chaplain

Appropriate faith Chaplain (essential)

Catering Manager

Race Relations Liaison Officer/Diversity Officer

Security Officer


  1. Have procurement procedures been followed?

(See Chapter 11 of PSO 7500)

Chapter 3: Introduction from the Director of Regimes

1. This chapter of Prison Service Order 4550 provides details of the religious advisers to the Prison Service for the Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and Mormon religions. Most of the organisations have worked with the Prison Service for a number of years; the setting up of the Advisory Group on Religion in Prisons has led to their role as advisers now being formalised. Their official title is Religious Consultative Services (RCS) to the Prison Service, for their faith.


2. These arrangements will enable establishments to have a clearly defined central point of contact for each of these religions which they can approach for advice on religious matters.

Impact and Resource Assessment

3. The establishment of the RCSs should help reduce the time it takes to resolve queries. The Prison Service is contributing to the costs of some of the RCSs; others have said they do not wish to receive payment for their services. The RCSs are not expected to charge establishments for their involvement or any advice that they give.

Visiting Ministers (referred to in the PSO as Ministers or religious Ministers)

4. The appointment procedures and terms and conditions of service of visiting ministers are under review; any changes arising from this will be promulgated separately. Pending the outcome of the review, the current arrangements on appointments, which are set out in the Directory and Guide on Religious Practice and in guidance issued under cover of Advice to Governors 42/94, continue to apply. The RCSs will be pleased to help in any cases of difficulty. For the Buddhist faith, Angulimala should always be contacted direct, as they deal with all Buddhist nominations. The role of the RCSs in the appointment process will be considered as part of the review.


5. This PSO comes into effect on issue.

Mandatory Action

6. Governing governors, directors and controllers of contracted out prisons must ensure that all staff working with prisoners, especially religious Ministers (ie Chaplains and Visiting Ministers) and RRLOs are aware of the content of this PSO.

Audit & Monitoring

7. Compliance is to be monitored locally.


8. Further information is available from:

Helen Redmond, Prisoner Administration Group, Room 702, Cleland House.

Tel: 0207 217 6472

Michelle Crerar, Prisoner Administration Group, Room 718, Cleland House.

Tel: 0207 217 2807

Ken Sutton

Director of Regimes


ELOs must record the receipt of the Prison Service Order - RELIGION in their registers as issue 4550 as set out below. The PSO must be placed with those sets of orders mandatorily required in Chapter 4 of PSO 0001..

Issue no.


Order no.

Title and / or description

Date entered in set

ELO signature






Religious Consultative Services to the Prison Service.


3.1 This Chapter is to advise governors of the establishment of Religious Consultative Services (RCSs) for some of the main non Christian, and the Mormon, religions. These religions are all represented on the Advisory Group on Religion in Prison. The RCSs are independent organisations that will work with the Prison Service in an advisory capacity on matters of religious provision for prisoners of their faith.

3.2 RCSs have been established for the following religions:




Mormon (The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints)

3.3 Details of the RCSs and their main contact points are set out in the Annex to this Order.

Mandatory Actions

3.4 Where establishments have a query relating to the specific religious needs of prisoners from the above faiths they would normally be expected to raise this with their locally appointed Minister for that faith. Where further advice is required, or where there is no minister appointed for that faith, establishments must consult the appropriate RCS.

3.5 For the Islamic faith, where following consultation with the prison Imam, further advice is required, establishments must contact the Prison Service Muslim Adviser, Maqsood Ahmed, in the first instance. He will contact the National Council for the Welfare of Muslim Prisoners (NCWMP), the Muslim RCS, as appropriate. If the Muslim Adviser is not available, the NCWMP may be approached direct but a copy of any correspondence to the NCWMP should be sent to the Muslim Adviser.


3.6 The RCSs have been advised that responsibility for operational matters rests with the governor of the establishment concerned and that where they have concerns relating to a particular prison they must in the first instance take these up with the Governor. If the matter cannot be resolved they may take the matter up with the Area Manager (through Prisoner Administration Group if they wish, who will copy in the Deputy Director General) and then, if need be, with the Director General. (The NCWMP will also keep the Muslim Adviser informed.)

3.7 The principal function of the RCS is to provide an advice and consultancy service to the Prison Service. Should a RCS become involved in a particular case, for instance at the request of a religious minister or a prison, the RCS has no automatic right of access to the prison or to see a prisoner, but governors should be willing to invite a representative of the RCS into a prison where the representative’s involvement will help to overcome difficulties.

Advice & Information

Other religions

3.8 This instruction does not alter the arrangements for other religious groups for whom an RCS does not exist. In many cases, prisons will have local arrangements to help them meet the needs of these faiths. Advice on some of these religions (eg Bahai, Christian Science, Jain, Jehovah Witness and Seventh Day Adventist) is contained in the Directory and Guide on Religious Practice in HM Prison Service (see 3.9 below).

Directory and Guide on Religious Practice in H M Prison Service

3.9 The main advisory document on religious observance in prisons remains the Directory & Guide on Religious Practices in HM Prison Service. This contains details of religious practices in the community and the permitted religious observances and facilities in prison establishments; it includes information on private and corporate worship, diet, dress and aspects of social traditions. The RCSs will be able to give further advice on these subjects, if needed.

3.10 The RCSs have, where requested, been added to the circulation list to receive copies of all Prison Service Instructions and Orders.

Annex (revised May 2005)




The Venerable Ajahn Khemadhammo Mahathera OBE


The Forest Hermitage

Lower Fulbrook (Nr Sherbourne)

Warwick CV35 8AS

Tel. 01926 624385

Mob. 07941 013319

E - mail : Lpkhem@foresthermitage.org.uk

  : Khemadhammo.mahathera@hmps.gsi.gov.uk


Dr H V S Shastry

The Bhavan Centre

4A Castletown Road

London W14 9HQ

Tel: 020 7381 3086/4608

Fax: 020 7381 8758

Email: shastry@Bhavan.net


Dr G.L.Bhan

World Council of Hindus - UK

Tel: 0161 627 8480 (Message will be passed to Dr Bhan by his secretary)

Fax 0161 627 8694

Mr K Ruperalia (World Council of Hindus - UK)

Tel 0203 113 2077

Email ikr@supanet.com


Contact The Prison Service Muslim Adviser:


Ahtsham Ali

Prison Service Chaplaincy

Room 410,

Abell House,

John Islip Street

London SW1P 4LH
Tel: 020 7 217 8071

Fax: 020 7 217 8980



Rev Michael Binstock

United Synagogue

Visitation Committee

Bet Meir

44b Albert Road


London NW4 2SJ

Tel: 020 8457 9703

Fax: 020 8457 9707

(Administrator: Sue Soloway)

Email: revbinstock@brijnet.org



Mike Peel

Area Presidency Office

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

751 Warwick Road


West Midlands

B91 3DQ

Tel: 0121 712 1200 (Ask for Area Presidency Office)

Mob: 07729 844 782

Email: mike.val3@tiscali.co.uk


NB – Please contact the relevant Sikh Chaplaincy Service Area Manager (details below) before contacting the Sikh Chaplaincy Service Director


Sikh Chaplaincy Service - for your area contact see below

Director: Dr Indarjit Singh, OBE

Suite 405

Highland House

165 The Broadway

Wimbledon London

SW19 1NE

Tel: 0208 544 8037

Fax: 0208 540 4148

Area Contacts: Sikh Chaplaincy Service Area Managers


Eastern and Thames Valley Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Contact: Mr Kulwant Singh Selhi

Tel: 020 8464 9119

Kent and Surrey & Sussex

Contact: Mr Makhan Singh Roy

Tel: 020 8399 6746


Contact: Mr Harcharan Singh

Tel: 020 8241 1816

East and West Midlands

Contact: Mr Jaswant Singh Heera

Tel: 0121 459 0286
North East and Yorkshire & Humberside

Contact: Mr Mohinder Singh Chana

Tel: 0127 439 0069

North West

Contact: Mr Hardev Singh Sohal

Tel: 0151 327 6710

Wales and South West

Contact: Dr Joginder Paul Singh, JP

Tel: 01793 538370


The Pagan Federation Prison Manager

PO Box 1318


GU19 5YN

e-mail: pfprisonministry@gmail.com



4.1 This chapter gives information on the use of the religion card which is designed to assist Reception Officers to obtain and record accurate information on the faith adherence of a new prisoner.

Policy and Output

4.2 The Religion Card sets out recognised universal symbols representing major world faiths together with a single instruction translated into over 40 languages. Use of the card will help ensure that all prisoners, particularly those who do not understand English, are able to identify their faith to reception staff, thereby enabling the Prison Service to meet their faith needs. It will also help ensure that more accurate information about the faiths of prisoners is available.

4.3. The card has been developed in consultation with the Advisory Group on Religion in Prisons.

Use of the Card

4.4 When interviewing a new prisoner on reception, the Reception Officer should hand the card to any prisoner who has difficulty in understanding English, at the point when their faith or religious denomination needs to be recorded. The Reception Officer should then record the religion corresponding to the sign indicated by the prisoner.

4.5 The faiths which are identified on the card are:









Zoroastrian (Parsee)

4.6 In addition there is a symbol representing Nil Religion for those prisoners who do not wish to declare a religion.
4.7 The instruction which is translated into a wide variety of languages reads:
"Please point to your religion to help the Prison Service to meet your faith needs"
The languages into which the instruction is translated are as listed at Annex A.

Impact and resource assessment

4.8 The card should make it easier for Reception staff to obtain accurate information on a prisoner's religion. Costs of providing and distributing the cards will be met centrally.

4.9 More accurate recording of religion for individual prisoners will result in individual faith needs being better met. More accurate recording of faith will also result in better statistical information on the numbers of prisoners of each faith which will enable the Prison Service to better cater for all faith traditions.


4.10 Governing Governors and Controllers of contracted out prisons which take new receptions from court must ensure that religion cards are available in Reception Departments. They must also ensure that staff who need to know, including Reception staff, Chaplains of all faith traditions (full-time, part-time and sessional) and Race Relations Liaison Officers are aware of the contents of this instruction.

Contact Point

4.11 Further information may be obtained from:

Religion Section

Prisoner Administration Group

Room 702, Cleland House

Tel: 020 7217 6472 / 6298

Fax: 020 7217 6462
4.12 Supplies of the card will initially be delivered to all prisons which accept prisoners directly from courts. These are listed at Annex B. A poster version of the card will also be available. Copies will be sent to all Chaplaincy Departments.
4.13 Further supplies will be available from:
Chaplaincy HQ

Room 410

Abell House

John Islip St










Bahasa (Indonesian)










































Lancashire & Cumbria



North East



Holme House



Manchester Mersey Cheshire


Forest Bank




Yorks & Humberside





West Midlands







Drake Hall

East Midlands North



Thames Valley Hampshire





East Midlands South


Glen Parva










South West











Wormwood Scrubs



Buckley Hall

Foston Hall

Eastwood Park

Bullwood Hall



Low Newton

Kent Surrey & Sussex



High Down



Issue Number 108 Issued 30/10/2000
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