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Dealing with debt from prison

If you’re at risk of going to prison, or if a close friend or family member has been sent to prison, there may be big changes to your finances.

Dealing with outstanding debts may not be the first thing on your mind at a difficult time like this, but it will make things easier in the future if you do.

If you’re in debt and about to go to prison

If you’re worried that you might be due to go to prison soon we recommend planning ahead to deal with your debts.

It’s important to keep any creditors informed. If you don’t, you may find that your debt situation gets worse while you’re inside and is harder to deal with once you’re released. Creditors can still take action to collect money from you while you’re in prison. For example, they may be able to start court action or make you bankrupt.

If you have arrears on priority bills creditors can still take action and this may affect other people you live with when you’re not in prison. For example, if you have rent arrears, your tenancy could be ended and you could be evicted. If you have gas or electric arrears, the provider could apply for a warrant to disconnect your supply or fit a pre-payment meter.

If you having an upcoming court hearing and you’re at risk of prison, we recommend you take the following steps before the hearing:

  • Contact your creditors to let them know you may be going to prison, and approximately how long this will be (if you know)
  • Ask your creditors if you can appoint a trusted friend or family member to deal with your account while you’re inside – this will be far easier than contacting them from prison yourself. Some companies may allow you to do this over the phone, but some may ask for this in writing

If you don’t manage to contact your creditors before you go to prison try to do it as soon as you can afterwards. Access to a phone will be limited, so it'll be easier to ask someone else to do this on your behalf.

While you’re in prison your income is unlikely to be enough to pay your creditors. Your best option may be to ask for a payment break until you’re released. You can take steps while inside to deal with your debts, for example by going bankrupt, but this can be harder to arrange.

As we offer help by phone or online, it may be difficult to contact us from inside.  We can discuss your case with a friend or family member if you give us permission. Alternatively, the prison you’re in may have an advice service run by a local advice agency which can offer you help with your debts.

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Is someone you know in debt and in prison?

If a partner or someone else close to you has been sent to prison, they may need your help to deal with their debts. You can contact their creditors for them if they’ve given their creditors permission to speak to you. If they’ve not done this you may find their creditors can’t talk to you. You may need to get your friend or family member to sign a document allowing you to deal with their debts.

If you have any joint debts the creditor will usually contact you and expect you to make the full payments. If you live together, you’ll also find that you’ll have to cover household costs like rent or mortgage, council tax and utility bills yourself. 

You may also find that supporting someone in prison means extra costs to cover travel costs for prison visits, or sending in money and other essential items.

If you find these extra expenses are leaving you struggling, contact us for debt help. We’re totally confidential and non-judgmental. Getting on top of any debt problems can take a big weight off your shoulders and can help you concentrate on other things.

You can also get advice on a wide range of issues that might affect you from the Offender’s Families Helpline on 0808 808 2003 (freephone).