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Written by Richard Cooke

Best Prisons to Work for in the UK

It was announced in November’s spending review that the Secretary of State for Justice, Michael Gove, is planning to build nine new prisons in England and Wales, which will house 10,000 inmates.

The move is expected to save £80m a year and will allow for the closure of several “Victorian relic” inner-city prisons, including Reading and Holloway (and in all likelihood, Pentonville and Brixton), with the vacated sites being sold off for development.

The government claims modern prisons will not only save money, but will also improve the rehabilitation of prisoners. Better facilities and fewer dark corners should also improve working conditions for prison staff.

With that in mind, we thought we’d eschew the usual ‘worst of’ yearly round-up and take a look at the best prisons to work for in the UK.

Prisons Performing Exceptionally

These prisons were all given an “exceptional performance” rating by the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) in its annual review of every prison in England and Wales.

The Prison Rating System (PRS) looks at four main areas: Public Protection, Reducing Reoffending, Decency and Resource Management and Operational Effectiveness.

If you’re interested in a career in the Criminal Justice sector, here’s our Top 5 prisons to consider working for…

  1. HM Prison Kirklevington Grange, near Yarm, North Yorkshire. A resettlement prison for Category D adult male offenders, where inmates are prepared for release. Praised by the Independent Monitoring Board in 2004 for having “a fair and respectful atmosphere” and commended for the good links between the prison and the local community. Praised again in 2006 by Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons for its excellent resettlement work and positive attitude amongst staff. In 2011, an inspection report found the prison to be “a safe environment with a high standard achieved in diversity work, healthcare and catering.” In 2015, the prison scored top marks for staff motivation and effectiveness, low for positive drug tests and has no issues with overcrowding – although there were a couple of absconds and 4 temporary release failures.
  1. HM Prison East Sutton Park, near Maidstone, Kent. A women’s prison and Young Offenders Institution, praised by the Director General of the Prison Service in 2001 for its caring regime and humane standards of treatment for prisoners. Due to be taken out of service in 2014, its successful record in encouraging rehabilitation meant its closure was halted. In 2015, it scored top marks for conditions (no issues with overcrowding), quality of prison life, staff motivation and effectiveness, and scored very low for positive drug testing. Inmates are encouraged to take part in farming, gardening and catering activities, and can receive training for work placements in the local community.
  1. HM Prison Hollesley Bay, near Woodbridge, Suffolk. A Category D men’s prison and Young Offenders Institution. The prison offers part-time education classes, a range of sporting activities and full-time accredited vocational training courses to inmates. Paid work is also available both within the prison and in the local community. The prison scored low for positive drug tests, top marks for staff motivation and effectiveness and has no issues with overcrowding. However, 7 inmates absconded last year after failing to return from temporary release, 1 is still at large.
  1. HM Prison Ashfield, near Bristol. A Category C adult male prison and treatment site for sex offenders. Staff won a ‘Public Servants of the Year’ award in 2006 for their dedication to improving healthcare for inmates. In 2015, the prison scored top marks for staff motivation and effectiveness, has no issues with overcrowding and scored very low for inmates testing positive for drugs.
  1. HM Prison Gartree, in Market Harborough, Leicestershire. Didn’t score particularly well for positive drug testing, but has no issues with overcrowding and scored top marks for staff motivation and effectiveness. A prison for Category B adult males, many of its inmates, mostly long-term prisoners serving life sentences, are employed in the prison workshop or gardens.

Honourable Mentions

An honourable mention goes to HM Prison Blantyre House, near Goudhurst, Kent, which was temporarily closed for refurbishment in January 2015, but remains closed with its future in doubt. It had a perfect score for positive drug testing, overcrowding and staff motivation and effectiveness.

HM Prison Warren Hill, near Woodbridge, Suffolk, also gets a thumbs-up. A Young Offenders Institution until 2013, Warren Hill now holds Category C adult male prisoners and will be merged with Hollesley Bay in October 2016. It scored low for positive drug tests, has no issues with overcrowding and scored top marks for conditions and quality of prison life.

Also getting an “exceptional performance” rating were HM Prison The Mount (top marks for staff motivation and effectiveness), Send, Askham Grange (another whose closure was halted due to high performance) and Standford Hill. Greatly improved prisons include: Usk/Prescoed, Forest Bank and Parc.

Do you have experience of working in any of the prisons mentioned? Do you agree with the NOMS assessment? Perhaps your prison wasn’t awarded the top rating, but you feel it should’ve been? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

If you’re interested in working for the prison service, you can search for Criminal Justice jobs here.

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