A handy guide has been produced for convicts heading to prisons in and around East Staffordshire.

Every year, hundreds of prisoners are sent down to Category B jail HMP Dovegate, in Marchington and women's prison HMP Foston Hall.

Convicts are also regularly moved to open prison HMP Sudbury to see out the end of their sentences.

For those experiencing the "big house" for the first time, there has historically been little information out there as to how to prepare for their stretches.

Now website firsttimeinprison.co.uk has produced a guide for those going to court and expecting to be sent straight to the slammer.

For the first time, prospective prisoners have a handy inventory of what to pack in their overnight bags.

Guide for people heading to jail

The website reads: "Wear a cheap watch to court, one that you are happy to have in prison. You should be allowed to keep it on, and it’s a complete pain getting hold of one in some prisons.

"Not knowing the time may well start to drive you a little crazy inside, even though in bang up, for the most part, it doesn’t matter."

The site's authors say rules vary in different prisons - and new prisoners should "expect to be annoyed".

Advice on how to approach prison life mentally includes "rolling with it will be harder than you think and concentrating on small milestones may have disadvantages because "it won’t happen as you expect and the result is that that can seem like the end of the world".

If you're heading to jail, there's a new handy guide

The site reads: "Some things do have a tangible effect – when you get to go through your property is when you may get your books or toiletries and therefore have something to do or clean with, but this could be day two or day 10, irrespective of what it 'officially' says in your prison.

"So even with those things, try not to expect too much, even if you’ve tried to work it out from what other prisoners have said or experienced when you’re there."

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What to take into prison

  • ALL TOILETRIES Some they may not let you have because you can buy it on “canteen”, but anything they do let you have will save you money on canteen that you can use for something else.
  • PENS AND PENCILS It varies what sorts are allowed in what prisons, so have a variety. As with above, you can buy them, but better to save the money.
  • UNDERWEAR Take several sets (seven or eight).
  • BOOKS As many as you can if you like reading.
  • STAMPS, WRITING PAPER, ENVELOPES Again they may not let you because you can buy, but most guards will be fine with this).
  • A RADIO/ALARM CLOCK
  • COMFORTABLE SHOES assuming you wear smart shoes to court
  • CASH about £100.

All you need to know about the prisons in our area

HMP Dovegate

HMP Dovegate Prison, a Category B prison in Marchington
HMP Dovegate Prison, a Category B prison in Marchington

Opened in 2001, HMP Dovegate is a category B prison managed by contractor Serco.

It houses more than 1,060 male adult prisoners aged above 21 and serving sentences between four years and life.

The Marchington prison prides itself on educating inmates in literacy, numeracy, IT and vocational skills.

Drug and alcohol counselling is also a big part of what the jail offers.

The Marchington facility has a 200-bed "therapeutic community" for repeat serious offenders.

HMP Sudbury

HMP Sudbury, an open prison in Derbyshire Dales
HMP Sudbury, an open prison in Derbyshire Dales

Open prison HMP Sudbury, in the Derbyshire Dales village, is where offenders go to see out the end of their sentences.

Prisoners are periodically set out on temporary release to allow them to re-integrate into society before they are permanently released.

They are expected to work and undertake training courses while serving the end of their sentences.

There are 213 single rooms and 175 double rooms at the facility.

HMP Foston Hall

HMP Foston Hall, a women's prison in South Derbyshire
HMP Foston Hall, a women's prison in South Derbyshire

The Foston prison is a women's prison in South Derbyshire and focuses heavily on accommodating training courses and vocational education.

Inmates are given the chance to learn in the prison's gardens, gym, textile workshop and kitchens.

The jail has provision for a total of 344 women.