Stuart Miller’s guide to the UK's best and worst prisons.

Prison Advisor

At Stuart Miller Solicitors we strive to ensure that innocent people are not wrongly convicted. For those do that have to spend time at Her Majesty's pleasure, we introduce Prison Advisor - A guide to the UK's best and worst prisons.

prison adviser

We collated the most recent survey data of prison inmates in England & Wales conducted anonymously by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons. We reveal here the best and worst-rated prisons across a wide number of categories. Download a copy of the raw data here.

Overall Top 10 prisons

All scores are based on an anonymous survey of current inmates from the most recent report by HM Chief Inspectorate of Prisons. Scores were weighted by the factors rated most important by prison inmates.

Winner: HMP east sutton park

east sutton park

HMP East Sutton Park, near Maidstone, Kent, is one of just two dedicated women’s open prisons in England.

The prison – located in 84 acres of grounds – holds around 100 women and young offenders deemed suitable to be held out of closed conditions.

In its most recent inspection, the Independent Monitoring Board concluded the prison was “well run with residents generally enjoying a good relationship with staff”.

But the prison was criticised in 2019 after it emerged that flats converted so prisoners could live “semi-independently” remained empty 10 months after refurbishment was completed.

Former notable inmates include Vicky Pryce,the ex-wife of the former cabinet minister Chris Huhne, who was handed an eight-month prison sentence for perverting the course of justice.

 

Overall Bottom 10 prisons

Scores are based on an anonymous survey of current inmates from the most recent report by HM Chief Inspectorate of Prisons. Scores were weighted by the factors rated most important by prison inmates.

LOSER: HMP bullingdon

Tinderbox jail HMP Bullingdon has been besieged by drugs and violence – with blades found in the showers and illicit substances discovered in the mailroom.

Oxfordshire’s troubled prison – home to 1,096 inmates – was blasted in a report which told how attacks had soared and drugs finds had shot up.

Drug soaked letters sent to inmates have been blamed for the chaos at the category B jail.

In a video posted online, one inmate described conditions as “unhygienic”.

He said: “No one in here is asking for a new PlayStation. We’re just asking for toilet roll.”

An inspection report released last year found prison bosses had made some progress after a damning 2017 review saw the jail ranked “not sufficiently good”.

But inspectors said the jail remained overcrowded with issues of drugs and violence.

More than half of the prisoners believed it was easy to get hold of illegal substances.

The report revealed that 23% of cells which were designed to hold one prisoner were instead holding two.

Top 10 prisons for men

Scores are based on an anonymous survey of current inmates from the most recent report by HM Chief Inspectorate of Prisons. Scores were weighted by the factors rated most important by prison inmates.

Winner: HMP Cookham Wood

cookham wood

Juvenile prison Cookham Wood has been plagued with violence – with teenagers feeling “obliged” to fight gang rivals.

The jail, in Rochester, Kent, recorded 350 assaults in the first half of 2019 – just 160 below the number for the whole of 2018.

Inspectors found boys were living in a culture of following “the rules of the game” by sparring with rivals.

HM Inspectors of Prisons (HMIP) reported: “A culture had been established whereby there was an obligation on children to fight with children from a different postcode, gang or wing.”

HMIP rated Cookham Wood, which holds up to 178 inmates, as insufficiently good in safety, purposeful activity and resettlement, but reasonably good in care following the most recent inspection.

Moors murderer Myra Hindley served time at the prison in the early 1990s when it housed female prisoners.

Bottom 10 prisons for men

Scores are based on an anonymous survey of current inmates from the most recent report by HM Chief Inspectorate of Prisons. Scores were weighted by the factors rated most important by prison inmates.

LOSER: HMP bullingdon

Tinderbox jail HMP Bullingdon has been besieged by drugs and violence – with blades found in the showers and illicit substances discovered in the mailroom.

Oxfordshire’s troubled prison – home to 1,096 inmates – was blasted in a report which told how attacks had soared and drugs finds had shot up.

Drug soaked letters sent to inmates have been blamed for the chaos at the category B jail.

In a video posted online, one inmate described conditions as “unhygienic”.

He said: “No one in here is asking for a new PlayStation. We’re just asking for toilet roll.”

An inspection report released last year found prison bosses had made some progress after a damning 2017 review saw the jail ranked “not sufficiently good”.

But inspectors said the jail remained overcrowded with issues of drugs and violence.

More than half of the prisoners believed it was easy to get hold of illegal substances.

The report revealed that 23% of cells which were designed to hold one prisoner were instead holding two.

Top 10 prisons for women

Scores are based on an anonymous survey of current inmates from the most recent report by HM Chief Inspectorate of Prisons. Scores were weighted by the factors rated most important by prison inmates.

Winner: HMP east sutton park

east sutton park

HMP East Sutton Park, near Maidstone, Kent, is one of just two dedicated women’s open prisons in England.

The prison – located in 84 acres of grounds – holds around 100 women and young offenders deemed suitable to be held out of closed conditions.

In its most recent inspection, the Independent Monitoring Board concluded the prison was “well run with residents generally enjoying a good relationship with staff”.

But the prison was criticised in 2019 after it emerged that flats converted so prisoners could live “semi-independently” remained empty 10 months after refurbishment was completed.

Former notable inmates include Vicky Pryce,the ex-wife of the former cabinet minister Chris Huhne, who was handed an eight-month prison sentence for perverting the course of justice.

 

Bottom 10 prisons for women

Scores are based on an anonymous survey of current inmates from the most recent report by HM Chief Inspectorate of Prisons. Scores were weighted by the factors rated most important by prison inmates.

LOSER: HMP downview

downview prison

Women’s closed prison HMP Downview is the only UK jail to house transgender inmates.

The facility, in Banstead, Surrey, has a dedicated unit for high-risk trans women.

But the wing has been criticised by inspectors for failing to provide enough activities for its inmates.

One prisoner in the unit harmed herself 35 times in three months, while others complained of “boredom”.

The HMIP inspection in 2019 revealed an increase in the number of positive drugs tests for synthetic cannabis-style substances.

The prison has capacity for just under 300 prisoners and once was home to notorious London conwoman, Farah Damji.

There have also reportedly been problems attracting staff to HMP Downview, who earn less than they would in the nearby capital.

Prisons with notable inmates

Click to expand
HMP Ashfield
Stephen Fry
Stephen Fry
Fred & Rose West
HMP Bedford
John Bunyan
Ahmed Ali Awan
Sarah Dazley
James Hanratty
Alfred Rouse
HMP Belmarsh
Jonathan Aitken
Abu Hamza al-Masri
Jeffrey Archer
Julian Assange
Manfo Kwaku Asiedu
HMP Birmingham
Konon Molody
Charlie Wilson
Ozzy Osbourne
Fred West
Lee Hughes
HMP Bristol
John Straffen
Gary Glitter
Ben Gunn
HMP Brixton
Bertrand Russell
Terence MacSwiney
Oswald Mosley
George Lansbury
Barry Domvile
HMP Bronzefield
Roshonara Choudhry
Joanna Dennehy
Nicola Edgington
Shauna Hoare
Mairead Philpott
HMP Bullingdon
Munir Hussain
Rolf Harris
HMP Cardiff
John Straffen
Keith Allen
HMP Channings Wood
Luke McCormick
Harry Roberts
HMP Chelmsford
Ian Wright
Alfred George Hinds
Dean Saunders
Tony Adams
HMP Cookham Wood
Myra Hindley
Judy Carne
Sandra Gregory
HMP Dartmoor
Michael Davitt
Peter Hammond
Fred Longden
John Rodker
Moondyne Joe
HMP Doncaster
Prince Naseem Hamed
Baron Ahmed
HMP Downview
Farah Damji
HMP Durham
Martina Anderson
Mary Ann Cotton
Sandra Gregory
Myra Hindley
Carole Richardson
HMP East Sutton Park
Jane Andrews
Linda Calvey
Vicky Pryce
Sarah Tisdall
HMP Erlestoke
Alexander Blackman
HMP Featherstone
Lee Hughes
HMP Feltham
Mark Acklom
Mohammad Amir
Ghetts
J Hus
Zahid Mubarek
HMP Foston Hall
Maxine Carr
Lauren Jeska
Karen Matthews
Melanie Shaw
HMP Frankland

Kamel Bourgass
Charles Bronson Prisoner
Charles Bronson
Michael Adebolajo
Dhiren Barot
Levi Bellfield
HMP Full Sutton
Freddie Foreman
Donald Neilson
Sean O’Callaghan
Dale Cregan
HMP Garth
Gordon Park
HMP Gartree
Ian Brady
Charles Bronson Prisoner
Charles Bronson
Gerry Conlon
Reginald Kray
HMP Hewell
David Fairclough
Stephen Jackley
David Pipe
HMP High Down
Gary Glitter
Chris Lewis
HMP Hull
Charles Bronson Prisoner
Charles Bronson
Paul Sykes
Robert Maudsley
Tommy Robinson
HMP Leeds
Charles Bronson Prisoner
Charles Bronson
Roy Chubby Brown
Adam Johnson
Stefan Ivan Kiszko
HMP Leicester
Brian Keenan
Mark Morrison
Ricky Tomlinson
Charles Bronson Prisoner
Charles Bronson
Kray Twins
HMP Lewes
Reginald Kray
George Edalji
Khalid Masood
Tom O’Carroll
HMP Lincoln
Jeffrey Archer
Don Brothwell
John George Haigh
John Poulson
Fred Nodder
HMP Littlehey
Stephen Downing
Harry Roberts
Max Clifford
Alex Hepburn
HMP Liverpool
Akinwale Arobieke
Brendan Behan
Fenner Brockway
Baron Brockway
Charles Bronson Prisoner
Charles Bronson
HMP Long Lartin
Benjamin Geen
Christopher Halliwell
Crazy Titch
Nathan Matthews
Steve Wright
HMP Manchester
Joey Barton
Brendan Behan
Ian Brady
Ian Brown
Catherine Tolson
HMP Moorland
Michael Barton
Adam Johnson
Juress Kika
Sean Mercer
Jake Fahri
HMP Norwich
Reginald Kray
Anthony Sawoniuk
Ronnie Biggs
Donald Neilson
Marcus Potter
HMP Nottingham
Ian Paterson
HMP Onley
Tommy Robinson
Ashley Walters
HMP Pentonville
John Boyle O’Reilly
Charles Peace
Oscar Wilde
Madan Lal Dhingra
Hawley Harvey Crippen
HMP Portland
Mohammad Amir
Roy Chubby Brown
Tom Clarke
John Daly
Michael Davitt
HMP Ranby
Michael Carroll
Luke McCormick
HMP Rye Hill
Ian Watkins
HMP Send
Jane Andrew
Vanessa George
HMP Sheppey Cluster (Swaleside)
Michael John Bettaney
Kenneth Noye
HMP Stafford
George Smith
William Palmer
Michael Collins
Ashley Blake
Rolf Harris
HMP Stocken
Johnny Vaughan
Winston Silcott
HMP Usk
Ali Dizae
Harold Jones
HMP Wakefield
Ian Watkin
Mark Bridger
Pawel Relowicz
Fred Haslam
Klaus Fuchs
HMP Wandsworth
Bat Khurts
Bruce Reynolds
Charles Bronson Prisoner
Charles Bronson
Chris Atkins
Chris Huhne
HMP Wayland
Reggie kray
Jeffrey Archer
Charlie Gilmour
Khalid Masood
HMP Wealstun
Owen Oyston
HMP Winchester
Dennis Whitty
Richmond Sixteen
Basil Bunting
Keith Mann
Rosemary West
HMP Wormwood Scrubs
Paul Blackburn
George Blake
Reginald Horace Blyth
Horatio Bottomley
Ian Brady

Top 10 prisons for visitor access

Inmates were asked to rate the prison on the degree to which friends and family could easily access the prison by car or public transport. All ratings were compiled from an anonymous survey of current inmates from the most recent report by HM Chief Inspectorate of Prisons.

Winner: HMP styal

This women’s prison, near Manchester, has been rocked by a number of inmate deaths.

Four inmates died within 15 months in 2018 and 2019 – three of whom had just arrived at the prison.

An Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) report in October claimed the prison was battling problems with the synthetic drug Spice and facilities so poor women had to bathe in “rusty water”.

HMP Styal houses over 400 women in 16 detached Victorian house.

The IMB said that the preparation of prisoners for release was one of the jail’s “strengths” but “conditions are adversely affected by the poor state of the buildings”.

Inspectors said the failure to maintain accommodation was creating “serious decency issues for the women”.

An earlier Chief Inspector of Prisons report from spring 2018 revealed 44% of inmates surveyed said it was easy to get hold of drugs in Styal.

Bottom 10 prisons for visitor access

Inmates were asked to rate the prison on the degree to which friends and family could easily access the prison by car or public transport. All ratings were compiled from an anonymous survey of current inmates from the most recent report by HM Chief Inspectorate of Prisons.

LOSER: HMP isle of wight (parkhurst)

The sex offender jail on the Isle of Wight has been tormented by soaring violence.

Attacks have “risen significantly”, according to prison inspectors.

HMIP found more than half of the 1,000 inmates at the Category B jail felt unsafe.

Inspectors found that “safety had deteriorated” since its earlier visit and the response of managers was “not good enough”.

About 40% of the inmates are over 50 and a “significant proportion” are elderly and sometimes frail.

Former inmates include teacup poisoner Graham Young, who died the prison of a heart attack in 1990; Moors Murderer Ian Brady and the Kray twins.

Originally a military hospital, Parkhurst became a prison in 1863.

Gary Garabedian, who spent many years as a prison officer at Parkhurst, said: “In its heyday, its brief was very simple and straightforward — to look after those prisoners that other prisons couldn’t handle.

“Parkhurst literally became the dumping ground for the most troublesome, violent and mentally deranged prisoners in the system.”

Top 10 prisons for visitor hours

Ratings were calculated by adding the total number of hours in which inmates could receive visitors. The total time was then converted to a scale of 0%-100%.

Winner: HMP forest bank

Violence at Forest Bank has rocketed – but inspectors maintain it is still a “well-led” prison.

Prisoner-on-prisoner assaults have doubled in three years at the privately-run Salford jail.

The category B prison – home to 1,460 inmates – has been plagued with gangs “taking advantage” of inexperienced staff, according to HM Inspectorate of Prisons.

And prison bosses admit “there is more to do around levels of violence”.

The prison is among the North West’s most overcrowded, with almost two-thirds of single cells doubled up.

Cody Lachey, a former HMP Forest Bank prisoner, told the BBC in 2019: “Forest Bank is beset by problems, because the staff are getting younger and younger and prisoners are masters of manipulation, who will always seek to exploit weakness, whether that’s in another prisoner or a prison officer.

“It’s very easy to fall into debt – in prisons, if you borrow something, you have to pay double back.

“Prisoners who are in debt live a very paranoid existence because their debt is increasing and where you have debt, you have fear, intimidation, bullying and violence.”

Bottom 10 prisons for visitor hours

Ratings were calculated by adding the total number of hours in which inmates could receive visitors. The total time was then converted to a scale of 0%-100%.

LOSER: HMP haverigg

The Haverigg population will double to 570 later in 2020 when it converts to an open prison.

And prison bosses will hope reclassification as a category D facility will help end the scourge of drugs at the Cumbrian jail.

Last year, 17 inmates were caught high on drugs in a single day of “mass intoxication”.

The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) said the use of psychoactive substances at HMP Haverigg was “disturbing”.

Drugs may also have caused the death of two inmates, the IMB said.

Haverigg is also among an increasing number of prisons to have taken the decision to scan all cards, photographs and supposed legal letters after screenings found they were “impregnated” with illegal substances.

Its most recent notable inmate was escaped cat, Padfoot, who broke into the jail by scaling a 25-foot fence. Inmates spotted the animal walking precariously along razor wire after he got stuck inside the prison perimeter.

Top 10 least overcrowded prisons

The value shown is based on the difference between the prison occupancy based on the most recent report by HM Chief Inspectorate of Prisons and then deducted from the Certified Normal Accommodation (CNA).

Winner: HMP berwyn

£250m HMP Berwyn in Wrexham, North Wales, opened in 2017 and is the UK’s biggest prison.

Inmates are called ‘men’, cells are known as ‘rooms’, and prisoners have access to phones and computers.

But the so-called super prison – which accommodates 2,100 inmates – has been rocked by concerns over drugs and safety.

In November 2019, a judge said Berywn was “in crisis” because of the amount of contraband being smuggled inside.

Judge Niclas Parry also said it had become a place of indiscipline, with violence, attacks upon staff and bullying.

A former prisoner, known only as Dave, said: “People are making liquid spice and spraying it on letters and sending them in, which is smoked. But this is every prison,” he said.

“But in other prisons you are put on basic regime if caught, in Berwyn I’ve seen them taken to their cell for an hour to chill out and then let out.

“I know prisoners have given sexual favours for it. One gave his false teeth for some.”

Prison Service chiefs say measures to stop drugs getting into the prison have improved.

Bottom 10 most overcrowded prison

The value shown is based on the difference between the prison occupancy based on the most recent report by HM Chief Inspectorate of Prisons and then deducted from the Certified Normal Accommodation (CNA).

LOSER: HMP wandsworth

This tough London jail is the most overcrowded clink in the UK – and home to criminals including speedboat killer Jack Shepherd.

The 1,628 max-security jail – one of the largest in the country – was also once home to Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs.

Built in 1851, its original buildings are still used to house some of the country’s most hardened crooks.

During a 2018 inspection, Investigators discovered that “most prisoners share a cell designed for one person” and more than a third “were receiving psychosocial help for substance misuse problems.”

X-ray scanners are due to be unveiled at Wandsworth to tackle the drugs problem.

The “cutting edge” scanners can produce instant images from inside the human body to reveal concealed contraband.

Prison bosses were last year forced to replace all the locks and keys over fears that inmates may have been given copies.

 

Prisons with the oldest inmates

Rating based on the prisons with the highest percentage of inmates listed in the category of  ’70+ years of age’  based on the most recent report by HM Chief Inspectorate of Prisons.

Winner: HMP Ashfield

HM Prison Ashfield (formerly Pucklechurch Remand Centre) is an adult male sex offenders prison located in the village of Pucklechurch (near Bristol), in Gloucestershire, England. The prison is operated by Serco.

Ashfield Prison was built on the site of the Pucklechurch Remand Centre, and opened in 1999. It was the first private prison in the United Kingdom to house young offenders. The prison was soon mired in controversy after repeated riots and reports of poor management. Conditions at the prison became so bad in 2003 that the Youth Justice Board withdrew prisoners from Ashfield, and threatened to recommend that the prison should be taken over by the public sector. Conditions improved however, and the prison (under new management) was given a good inspection report the following year

Prisons with the youngest inmates

Rating based on prisons with the the highest percentage of inmates listed in the category of ‘under 21 years of age’ based on the most recent report by HM Chief Inspectorate of Prisons. This list excludes all Young Offenders Institutes (YOIs)

Winner: HMP swinfen hall

 Swinfen Hall is a category C male prison and young offenders’ institute for 18-25 year olds.

The facility, near Lichfield, Staffs, was criticised last year over concerns about the “humane treatment of prisoners”.

Inmates from ethnic minorities were also found to have been “treated unfairly” by being put into segregation more frequently.

The Independent Monitoring Board flagged up “deficiencies in care” for inmates who self-harm and those who “choose to self-isolate”.

The prison, which has 570 inmates, was also rapped for the number of doors and gates left unlocked.

One inmate was “able to move freely in the wing all night, undetected by CCTV or otherwise until roll call the following morning”.

Statistics in the 2019 report reveal a prisoner from a BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) background was 1.45 times more likely to face disciplinary action.

 

Top 10 most ethnically diverse prisons

Rating based on prisons with the highest percentage of inmates classifying themselves as being of “white” ethnicity based on the most recent report by HM Chief Inspectorate of Prisons.

Winner: HMP isis

HMP Isis sits within the perimeter of the high-security Belmarsh jail in south-east London and is home to around 600 young men.

The max security prison, built in 2009, has seen increased levels of violence with one in four inmates revealing they felt unsafe.

The jail’s most recent inspection report – from December 2018 – tells how inmates aged 25 and younger accounted for 70% of violent incident.

One of inspectors’ most serious concerns was around the use of force by staff which “we were not assured was always justified”.

The report added that living conditions had improved since 2016 and the food was particularly popular.

Isis made headlines last year when it emerged that officers were sending prisoners letters to thank them for their good behaviour.

Prisoners are also being given “reward slips” to encourage positive attitude during sentences at the facility.

Bottom 10 least ethnically diverse prisons

 

Rating based on prisons with the lowest percentage of inmates classifying themselves as being of “white” ethnicity based on the most recent report by HM Chief Inspectorate of Prisons.

LOSER: HMP northumberland

HMP Northumberland holds more than 1,300 prisoners and is run by private contractor Sodexo Justice Services.

The Category C jail, in Acklington, is a training prison that is meant to offer a range of education and training programmes to prepare inmates for release.

But since being taken over in December 2013, the jail has suffered staff shortages, violence among inmates and drug taking.

The prison made headlines in 2018 when footage emerged of inmates high on so-called zombie drug, Spice, and of naked prisoners fighting on leashes.

In 2019, jail bosses apologised after it was revealed that staff had taken a serial rapist to a KFC during a prison transfer.

Drug detection scanners and sniffer dogs have been brought in to crack down on contraband smuggling.

But its most recent inspection report warned how half of inmates don’t feel safe.

 

Top 10 most sexualy diverse prisons

Rating based on prisons with the lowest percentage of inmates classifying themselves as being of “straight” sexuality based on the most recent report by HM Chief Inspectorate of Prisons.

Winner: HMP low newton

Low Newton, in Brasside, Co Durham, is a max-security women’s prison for adults and young offenders.

It is currently home to notorious triple killer Joanna Dennehy, 37, and formerly where serial killer Rose West was locked up.

The top-security jail – ranked excellent by the Chief Inspector of Prisons – has been accused of being “too cushy”.

House of Horrors killer West was said to have broken down in tears when she was moved from the prison last year.

West, 66, who got life in 1995 for her part in the murders, including that of her daughter, spent more than a decade at Low Newton, ¬making cakes and knitting.

A source told the Daily Mirror: “Rose West lived a life of luxury in there.

“She’s got it made because she’s in the lifers’ unit. She doesn’t even leave her cell and they bring food to her.

“So she was gutted when she had to leave. She was in tears and the prison officers just packed her things up. She was really upset. She didn’t want to go.”

 

Bottom 10 least sexualY diverse prisons

Rating based on prisons with the highest percentage of inmates classifying themselves as being of “straight” sexuality based on the most recent report by HM Chief Inspectorate of Prisons.

LOSER: HMP wormwood scrubs

Notorious Wormwood Scrubs is among the country’s toughest prisons.

The London category B jail was once home to major league criminals like Ian Brady and Charles Bronson.

It was last year named a “prison of concern” by the government over soaring violence levels.

Inspectors found that more than one serious attack took place every day, on average, with a “sustained increase in violence linked to Friday prayers”.

A report also revealed hygiene issues at the 145-year-old prison including “crows eating rotting food outside C Wing”.

The Independent Monitoring Board said: “External areas of the prison were frequently covered in layers of rubbish, which persisted despite efforts to clear them.”

New X-ray scanners will be rolled out at the prison – nicknamed The Scrubs – in a bid to crackdown on drug and contraband smuggling.

 

Top 10 prisons for education

Inmates were asked to rate the prison on the degree to which they had good access to education. All ratings were compiled from an anonymous survey of current inmates from the most recent report by HM Chief Inspectorate of Prisons.

Winner: HMP east sutton park

east sutton park

HMP East Sutton Park is a “successful and effective open prison” for women, independent inspectors believe.

The 102-capacity female-only jail, near Maidstone, in Kent, has been highlighted for its good work in helping inmates prepare for release.

In a recent Independent Monitoring Board report, it was suggested that more than 90% of women released from East Sutton Park do not reoffend in the first two years.

Staff were commended “for the way they encourage the women to make the most of their time there”.

Board chair Madeline Hughes said: “The prison is well run with residents generally enjoying a good relationship with staff. Residents are encouraged by staff to make the most of their time at East Sutton Park.

“Residents are treated with great consideration in a disciplined environment. Staff offer support and encouragement in preparing the women for release into the community.”

 

Bottom 10 prisons for education

Inmates were asked to rate the prison on the degree to which they had good access to education. All ratings were compiled from an anonymous survey of current inmates from the most recent report by HM Chief Inspectorate of Prisons.

LOSER: HMP Doncaster

HMP Doncaster, a category B male prison, was dubbed ‘Doncatraz’ when it first opened in 1994.

Like the notorious San Francisco jail, Alcatraz, the prison sits on an island between branches of three rivers running through South Yorkshire.

The prison – home 1,145 inmates – is run by Serco and was the third UK jail to be handed over the private sector.

In 2006, inspectors criticised the prison for “institutional meanness” after finding many prisoners went without pillows and toilet seats.

In July 2008, the prison was again criticised after it emerged that some inmates were having to sleep in toilets.

In its most recent 2017 inspection, HM Inspectorate of Prisons said: “Too many prisoners felt unsafe, and although levels of violence had reduced significantly, they were still too high.

“There had been some very good work done to reduce violence but this needed to continue and all elements of the violence reduction policy needed to be implemented.

Top 10 prisons for inmate safety

Inmates were asked to rate the prison on the degree to which they felt safe during their stay. All ratings were compiled from an anonymous survey of current inmates from the most recent report by HM Chief Inspectorate of Prisons.

Winner: HMP east sutton park

east sutton park

Female prisoners who have served time at HMP East Sutton Park say it is unlike many other British jails.

As an open prison, there are no lock-up times, inmates stay in dormitories and lounge together for communal dinners in a wood-panelled room.

The prison food is said to be “more than edible” – with battered fish and chips, and pudding with custard on the menu.

Vicky Pryce, who was sentenced for perverting the course of justice after taking the speeding points of her former husband, cabinet minister Chris Huhne, spoke of life inside East Sutton.

She said in her book Prisonomics: “I was astonished to discover that Friday night was karaoke night in the pool room. Saturday night was bingo night, for which you had to pay a fee of 50p, and bedtime was 11pm on weekdays and midnight on the weekends.”

As well as a communal dining room, there is also a ‘pool room’ containing sofas for watching television and a large room with comfortable furniture for relaxation and meetings.

Bottom 10 prisons for inmate safety

Inmates were asked to rate the prison on the degree to which they felt safe during their stay. All ratings were compiled from an anonymous survey of current inmates from the most recent report by HM Chief Inspectorate of Prisons.

LOSER: HMP birmingham

Troubled HMP Birmingham – also known as Winson Green – was taken by under government control after being rocked by full-scale rioting.

G4S was stripped of the contract at the category-B jail, which houses just under 1,000 inmates, after the chief inspector of prisons called it the “worst” he had ever been to.

Communal areas were filthy, with cockroaches, vermin, blood and vomit. In 2017, one inmate even carried out a sickening I’m A Celeb style challenge where he ate a cockroach on camera.

Last year, it emerged that CCTV was never been fitted on wings because G4S and the Prison Service felt the other should fund it.

Its most recent inspection report says “steady progress” is now being made.

Senior leaders have become more visible on wings at key times and there has been a “clear focus” on vulnerable inmates.

Notable past inmates include House of Horrors serial killer Fred West and Irish revolutionary Michael Collins.

Top 10 prisons for healthcare

Inmates were asked to rate the prison on the degree to which they felt they had good access to healthcare. All ratings were compiled from an anonymous survey of current inmates from the most recent report by HM Chief Inspectorate of Prisons.

Winner: HMP east sutton park

east sutton park

HMP East Sutton Park, near Maidstone, Kent, is one of just two dedicated women’s open prisons in England.

The prison – located in 84 acres of grounds – holds around 100 women and young offenders deemed suitable to be held out of closed conditions.

In its most recent inspection, the Independent Monitoring Board concluded the prison was “well run with residents generally enjoying a good relationship with staff”.

But the prison was criticised in 2019 after it emerged that flats converted so prisoners could live “semi-independently” remained empty 10 months after refurbishment was completed.

Former notable inmates include Vicky Pryce,the ex-wife of the former cabinet minister Chris Huhne, who was handed an eight-month prison sentence for perverting the course of justice.

Bottom 10 prisons for healthcare

Inmates were asked to rate the prison on the degree to which they felt they had good access to healthcare. All ratings were compiled from an anonymous survey of current inmates from the most recent report by HM Chief Inspectorate of Prisons.

LOSER: HMP lewes

A prison where self-harm was “common” among inmates, HMP Lewes was plunged into special measures in 2017.

Five prisoners took their lives at the Category B jail in Sussex between 2016 and 2019.

The prison was also criticised over the high numbers of staff attacks, hygiene and drug problems.

The 700-capacity institution was only taken out of special measures in January 2020.

The chief inspector of prisons said the facility was now “a prison with a renewed sense of purpose and direction”.

Chief inspector of prisons Peter Clarke said there had been a reduction in positive drug tests and a decline in self-harm.

Mr. Clarke concluded the prison was heading “in the right direction” but admitted: “Like many other local prisons, it dates from the Victorian era and much of its infrastructure is old and cramped.”

 

Top 10 prisons for cleanliness

Inmates were asked to rate the prison on the degree to which they felt that the public areas of the prison were kept clean. All ratings were compiled from an anonymous survey of current inmates from the most recent report by HM Chief Inspectorate of Prisons.

Winner: HMP altcourse

Once notorious for being one of the UK’s most volatile and overcrowded jails, violence is falling at Altcourse.

The privately-run Category B prison, just outside Liverpool, was plagued with drugs and self-harm.

But the 1,350 capacity jail has spearheaded change after introducing a number of measures – including allowing prisoners access to therapy dogs and caring for birds of prey.

Inmates are rewarded by being allowed to wear their own clothes and even have phones in their cells.

Notable former cons include Death on the Nile killer John Allan, wife slayer Mitchell Quy and Matthew Hardman, who, aged 17, disemboweled an elderly woman and drank her blood.

The HMIP report states: “Overall, Altcourse showed that a local prison can provide fundamentally decent treatment and conditions for prisoners, despite facing many of the same challenges as the rest of the prison service.

“There was much here from which others could learn.”

 

Bottom 10 prisons for cleanliness

Inmates were asked to rate the prison on the degree to which they felt that the public areas of the prison were kept clean. All ratings were compiled from an anonymous survey of current inmates from the most recent report by HM Chief Inspectorate of Prisons.

LOSER: HMP bedford

HMP Bedford was named one of the country’s most dangerous prisons after being plagued by trouble.

In 2016 the jail was hit by intense rioting, which saw about 230 inmates go on the rampage.

Inspectors told how they witnessed a “serious lack of order and control on the wings” with prisoners refusing to obey basic rules.

The 500-capacity jail also struggled to eradicate a massive rodent infestation. Conditions in the segregation unit were described as “appalling”.

The prison was put into special measures in 2018 after “seven years of inexorable decline”.

And the most recent inspection report in 2019 found that “insufficient” progress was being made to tackle the problems.

Prisons inspector Peter Clarke said inspectors “found a mixed picture with progress ranging from none to good, but in the majority of areas progress had been insufficient”.

He added that drug smuggling remains worryingly high at the category B prison.

Eight inmates have killed themselves while behind bars since 2017.

 

Top 10 prisons for religious respect

Inmates were asked to rate the prison on the degree to which they felt their religious beliefs were respected. All ratings were compiled from an anonymous survey of current inmates from the most recent report by HM Chief Inspectorate of Prisons.

Winner: HMP huntercombe

HMP Huntercombe, in Oxfordshire, is used to detain foreign nationals before their impending deportation or release into the UK.

The Category C prison, near Nuffield, has faced three years of claims that not enough support is available for inmates.

Jail bosses came under fire in 2016 when Lithaunian prisoner Darius Lasinkas, 26, took his life after being told he would serve out his sentence in his homeland.

The prison’s independent monitoring board said it “repeatedly” raised the lack of resources available to prepare prisoners for release.

The report stated: “There is no provision for resettlement preparation for prisoners that are to be released in the UK.

“The board acknowledges that the time between resolving a prisoner’s removal status and their conditional release date may be short.

“However, it should be possible to provide a means of quickly moving a prisoner to a non-foreign national prisoner jail and providing ‘fast-track’ resettlement preparation.”

Facilities at the 480-inmate jail have also been criticised with calls to solve plumbing and ventilation issues.

However, prisoners are said to be treated “humanely” on the whole, while violent incidents have fallen by 50%.

Bottom 10 prisons for religious respect

Inmates were asked to rate the prison on the degree to which they felt their religious beliefs were respected. All ratings were compiled from an anonymous survey of current inmates from the most recent report by HM Chief Inspectorate of Prisons.

LOSER: HMP Bristol

Bristol’s history includes fourteen executions, of which the last took place on 17 December 1963 when Russell Pascoe was hanged for the murder of William Rowe during a robbery. His accomplice Dennis Whitty met the same fate at HMP Winchester on the same morning.

There have been riots at HMP Bristol in 1986 and 1991. Major internal damage was caused to prison wings on both occasions.

The prison aroused controversy in 1996 when it was revealed that prisoners were sometimes transported to and from Bristol by a stretched limousine. Officials claimed the limo was only used when commercial taxis were not big enough to handle multiple prisoner transfers with prison officers as security. Soon after Bristol was upgraded to a Category A prison (part of the high security estate) holding the most dangerous prisoners.

A report from the Board of Visitors in 2000 criticised Bristol Prison for keeping some remand inmates on a punishment regime in segregation.Bristol faced more criticism in 2002 when it emerged that a shortage of staff nurses had resulted in the prison paying out thousands of pounds for agency nursing staff. A year later, Bristol was downgraded back to a Category B local prison, after repeated overcrowding and safety concerns from nearby residents.

 

Top 10 prisons for food quality

Inmates were asked to rate the prison on the quality of food provided. All ratings were compiled from an anonymous survey of current inmates from the most recent report by HM Chief Inspectorate of Prisons.

Winner: HMP east sutton park

east sutton park

Female prisoners who have served time at HMP East Sutton Park say it is unlike many other British jails.

As an open prison, there are no lock-up times, inmates stay in dormitories and lounge together for communal dinners in a wood-panelled room.

The prison food is said to be “more than edible” – with battered fish and chips, and pudding with custard on the menu.

Vicky Pryce, who was sentenced for perverting the course of justice after taking the speeding points of her former husband, cabinet minister Chris Huhne, spoke of life inside East Sutton.

She said in her book Prisonomics: “I was astonished to discover that Friday night was karaoke night in the pool room. Saturday night was bingo night, for which you had to pay a fee of 50p, and bedtime was 11pm on weekdays and midnight on the weekends.”

As well as a communal dining room, there is also a ‘pool room’ containing sofas for watching television and a large room with comfortable furniture for relaxation and meetings.

 

Bottom 10 prisons for food quality

Inmates were asked to rate the prison on the quality of food provided. All ratings were compiled from an anonymous survey of current inmates from the most recent report by HM Chief Inspectorate of Prisons.

LOSER: HMP wormwood scrubs

Notorious Wormwood Scrubs is among the country’s toughest prisons.

The London category B jail was once home to major league criminals like Ian Brady and Charles Bronson.

It was last year named a “prison of concern” by the government over soaring violence levels.

Inspectors found that more than one serious attack took place every day, on average, with a “sustained increase in violence linked to Friday prayers”.

A report also revealed hygiene issues at the 145-year-old prison including “crows eating rotting food outside C Wing”.

The Independent Monitoring Board said: “External areas of the prison were frequently covered in layers of rubbish, which persisted despite efforts to clear them.”

New X-ray scanners will be rolled out at the prison – nicknamed The Scrubs – in a bid to crackdown on drug and contraband smuggling.

Top 10 prisons for staff rating

Inmates were asked to rate the prison on the degree to which the staff treated them with respect. All ratings were compiled from an anonymous survey of current inmates from the most recent report by HM Chief Inspectorate of Prisons.

Winner: HMP east sutton park

east sutton park

HMP East Sutton Park is a “successful and effective open prison” for women, independent inspectors believe.

The 102-capacity female-only jail, near Maidstone, in Kent, has been highlighted for its good work in helping inmates prepare for release.

In a recent Independent Monitoring Board report, it was suggested that more than 90% of women released from East Sutton Park do not reoffend in the first two years.

Staff were commended “for the way they encourage the women to make the most of their time there”.

Board chair Madeline Hughes said: “The prison is well run with residents generally enjoying a good relationship with staff. Residents are encouraged by staff to make the most of their time at East Sutton Park.

“Residents are treated with great consideration in a disciplined environment. Staff offer support and encouragement in preparing the women for release into the community.”

 

Bottom 10 prisons for staff rating

Inmates were asked to rate the prison on the degree to which the staff treated them with respect. All ratings were compiled from an anonymous survey of current inmates from the most recent report by HM Chief Inspectorate of Prisons.

LOSER: HMP feltham

The West London youth offender centre has been plagued with gang violence – which cascaded into terrifying attacks on staff in January 2020.

Around 14 prison officers were set upon in a pre-planned attack by inmates holed up at the detention centre.

One female prison officer was slashed across her ear while another was punched in the face.

Feltham is home to around 100 boys and young men aged between 15 and 21.

An inspection report published in June 2019 revealed high levels of violence and self-harm, and high use of staff force. Part of the jail was closed to lower capacity as a result.

One former prison officer said of life at Feltham: “”I wanted to work with young offenders because I wanted to make a difference. But more and more it’s becoming a system where we just warehouse young people.

“I got to the point where I couldn’t cope. To say there’s not a crisis in our jails would be a lie.”

 

Top 10 prisons for time out of cell

Inmates were asked to rate the prison on the degree to which they had sufficient time out of their cell. All ratings were compiled from an anonymous survey of current inmates from the most recent report by HM Chief Inspectorate of Prisons.

Winner: HMP east sutton park

east sutton park

HMP East Sutton Park has won rave reviews for how female inmates are rehabilitated before being released back into society.

The open prison, near Maidstone, Kent, helps around 100 woman and young offenders prepare for release, often after lengthy jail terms.

Its most recent inspection by Her Majesty’s Inspectors of Prisons gave the prison top marks in all categories.

Inspectors found that prison staff, and peer mentor inmates, went above and beyond in helping prisoners address accommodation and money worries.

A series of educational courses were “well-attended” and helped to “enhance the women’s prospects on release.”

And while self-harm is a real issue at other prisons, it is nearly entirely absent at East Sutton Park.

Chief Inspector of Prisons, Peter Clarke, said: “We found East Sutton Park to be an excellent prison where the very strong staff-prisoner relationships underpinned safety and a respectful and purposeful approach to preparing women for release.

“Violence of any kind was extremely rare and the tensions related to communal living were usually resolved through informal mediation rather than formal disciplinary processes.”

 

Bottom 10 prisons for time out of cell

Inmates were asked to rate the prison on the degree to which they had sufficient time out of their cell. All ratings were compiled from an anonymous survey of current inmates from the most recent report by HM Chief Inspectorate of Prisons.

LOSER: HMP leicester

The future of HMP Leicester was up in the air amid reports it could be sold off and turned into a hotel.

But scrapped government plans to sell off old parts of the prison estate mean its short-term future is at least assured.

HMP Leicester was built in 1828 and houses 411 inmates.

The latest prison inspection report, published in May 2018, highlighted various problems within the ageing complex.

Prisoners reported ease in getting their hands on alcohol and illegal drugs.

Violence increased with 102 ‘prisoner on prisoner’ assaults in 2017, compared to 60 in 2016. Staff were assaulted 112 times in 2017, the highest figure on record.

HMP Leicester is among a number of prisons earmarked for state-of-the-art X-ray scanners to stop contraband being smuggled inside.

Notable ex-prisoners include the comedian Ricky Tomlinson and R&B star Mark Morrison.

 

Top 10 prisons for likelihood of reoffending

Inmates were asked to rate the degree to which they felt the prison had contributed to making it less likely that they would reoffend in the future. All ratings were compiled from an anonymous survey of current inmates from the most recent report by HM Chief Inspectorate of Prisons.

LOSER: HMP dovegate

This privately run category B prison in Derbyshire has tried to counter violence levels – by getting inmates to mix with hedgehogs.

Prisoners have constructed paths around the grounds of the Serco-run jail for the animals to roam.

Inmates have now nicknamed the prison, near Uttoxeter, “HMP Hog Gate”.

The project was revealed in a report out by inspectors from the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB).

The report states: “A hedgehog preservation scheme began in the summer 2018.

“Constructed by prisoners, it is hoped that HMP Hog Gate will help increase the population of this endangered species.”

Prisoners have also recycled discarded tents from music festivals in a scheme called the Million Stars Project.

There were 312 assaults reported at HMP Dovegate in 2018, up from 201 the year before.

A total of nine deaths were recorded in Dovegate between January 2018 and September 2019.

 

Bottom 10 prisons for likelihood of reoffending

Inmates were asked to rate the degree to which they felt the prison had contributed to making it less likely that they would reoffend in the future. All ratings were compiled from an anonymous survey of current inmates from the most recent report by HM Chief Inspectorate of Prisons.

WINNER: HMP east sutton park

east sutton park

HMP East Sutton Park, near Maidstone, Kent, is one of just two dedicated women’s open prisons in England.

The prison – located in 84 acres of grounds – holds around 100 women and young offenders deemed suitable to be held out of closed conditions.

In its most recent inspection, the Independent Monitoring Board concluded the prison was “well run with residents generally enjoying a good relationship with staff”.

But the prison was criticised in 2019 after it emerged that flats converted so prisoners could live “semi-independently” remained empty 10 months after refurbishment was completed.

Former notable inmates include Vicky Pryce,the ex-wife of the former cabinet minister Chris Huhne, who was handed an eight-month prison sentence for perverting the course of justice.

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