A Prison Librarian’s Guide to ROTL

Release On Temporary License (ROTL) does exactly what it says on the tin, it provides temporary release from prison.  This could be for a variety of reasons, from an urgent medical need to a regular work placement. There are countless prison rules, policies and procedures, and keeping abreast of them all is impossible. A Prison Librarians job isnt too remember and recall every detail but to be able to signpost service users to the information they need. ROTL is queried a lot, so it feels worthwhile having a basic understanding of it, so that you can answer queries and signpost with confidence. I’ve shared a little in this blog of the things I’ve learned about ROTL. I hope it is of some use. I’d love to hear others thoughts and ideas around Librarians role in supporting this process. 

Research shows that ROTL opportunities improve outcomes; reduce re-offending, support resettlement and improve prisoner wellbeing. 

An MOJ report in 2018 showed that 99% of ROTLS were successful, meaning there had been no recorded breech of license conditions. The conditions of ROTL are, as you’d imagine, quite strict. There are robust procedures in place for accessing ROTL, whatever procedure your establishment has in place it is likely the No.1 Governor has the final say on who accesses these opportunities. 

Three types of ROTL.


Resettlement Day Release, this is to access 

-paid work/community work


-Activities linked to sentence (behaviour programmes) 


Overnight releases, this is to access

  • re-establish family ties
  • Resettlement in to the community 

Special Purpose

-Emergencies involving family for whom the prisoner is a caregiver (Children)

-Tragic family circumstances 

-Medical procedure 

-Court appearances 

Who can access ROTL?

Opportunities are part of daily life in Cat D prisons where a large number of prisoners are engaged in resettlement opportunities.

RDR and Special purpose are also available for Cat B/C prisoners. 

Who can not access RDR?

Cat A prisoners 

Unsentenced/on remand prisoners 

Prisoners subject to extradition proceedings. 

The ROTL policy framework is a really useful document and it’s great to have a printed copy to hand. It isn’t a small document, so I suggest highlighting the below sections, as they are the areas I refer to weekly as a prison librarian. 

4.5 This gives clear wording on who can apply for ROTL.

4.8 Sets out prisons responsibilities for presenting ROTL opportunities 

4.9 and 5.1/2/3 Sets out clearly those who can’t access ROTL, useful section for those serving Indeterminate sentences. 5.1-5.3  further sets out the exclusions. I’ve had many a conversation around this with prisoners, as you can imagine it is an area of disappointment for some. If librarians can be aware of these restrictions it does mean we are sharing disappointing news, but it reduces the disappointment if this can be explained early before applications are started. 

4.11-4.14 Sets out the activities that can be accessed as part of different ROTL opportunities (includes a useful table) 

6.32 This section is around calculating the date a prisoner would be eligible for ROTL. I always rely on a Keyworker for this, as I didn’t feel confident in my understanding. Our establishment lists key workers on NOMIS and I find giving someone a contact name is better then signposting to a department, which can feel to the prisoner like they’re just being passed along. I find many prisoners, particularly those new to the establishment, are not always aware who their key worker is. The library can help out here. 

The framework is really accessible and has all the information and forms you require.

It can be found at 


I hope this blog has been useful. I’m still learning and open to feedback, would love to make more connections across prison libraries.

Thanks for reading 

A Prison Librarian’s Guide to ROTL