hm prison bronzefield

HM Prison Bronzefield

HM Prison Bronzefield is the largest female prison in Europe, located in Ashford, Surrey. It opened in 2004 as the first purpose-built private prison for women in the UK. This article will provide an overview of Bronzefield, including its history, operations, controversies, and notable inmates.

History and Opening of the Prison

The site where Bronzefield stands today was originally home to the West London District School, a residential institution for orphans built in 1872. After the school closed in 1955, the site became the Ashford Remand Centre, a facility for detaining criminal youths until its demolition in 1990.

HMP Bronzefield opened in June 2004 as the new top-security prison for women in the UK. It was constructed to be the first prison designed specifically for women, intended to provide enhanced living conditions compared to old, converted men’s prisons.

Location and Layout

Bronzefield is located on the outskirts of Ashford in Surrey. The design capacity is 527 inmates.

The prison is divided into four main residential units, each holding around 135 women. There is also a 12-bed Mother and Baby Unit for women with children up to 18 months old. Healthcare facilities include an 18-bed inpatient unit and a 10-bed self-help and counseling unit.

See also  HM Prison Bedford

Prison Management and Operations

Bronzefield is privately operated by Sodexo Justice Services under contract from the UK Ministry of Justice. The prison employs around 140 staff, with an equal gender balance between male and female officers.

As a local prison, Bronzefield accepts inmates directly from courts. It holds remand prisoners awaiting trial as well as convicted women serving sentences.

Security Categories and Prisoner Accommodation

Along with two other prisons, Bronzefield houses Category A/Restricted Status female prisoners – those considered the highest security risk such as violent offenders or prisoners who may try to escape.

It also holds lower-risk Category B and C prisoners. Women of all security categories are accommodated according to their status.

Education and Rehabilitation Programs

Rehabilitation services at Bronzefield include skills workshops in crafts, cleaning science, and art. Academic education covers basic literacy, English for non-native speakers, and IT skills.

The prison has run initiatives like a branch of the Women’s Institute to give inmates employment skills to use after release.

Healthcare Provision

Bronzefield offers inpatient medical care and mental health services. However, insufficient healthcare has been an ongoing issue at the prison.

Controversies and Criticisms

Although conditions are improved from old women’s prisons, HMP Bronzefield has attracted many controversies during its operation.

Deaths in Custody

There have been several deaths of prisoners related to inadequate medical supervision and neglect by staff. In 2013, Natasha Chin died after vomiting for hours without receiving proper medication or hospital transfer. An inquest found systemic failures in her lack of care.

Births in Custody

In 2019, a young inmate gave birth alone in her cell without medical help, resulting in the death of her child. It highlighted the lack of proper maternity provision.

See also  HM Prison Barlinnie

Inspection Reports

HM Inspectorate of Prisons has criticized healthcare shortcomings. A 2013 report condemned the 5-year segregation of a mentally ill prisoner as amounting to torture. However, inspectors have also praised Bronzefield’s rehabilitation initiatives.

Notable Inmates

Current Inmates

Bronzefield houses several notorious offenders like child-killer Rosemary West, police killer Nicola Edgington, and Karen Matthews who faked her daughter’s kidnapping.

Other current inmates include Roshonara Choudhry who attempted to murder an MP and Britain’s youngest female killer Sharon Carr.

Former Inmates

Past prisoners include Jane Andrews, former aide to Sarah Ferguson convicted of murder; Tracey Connelly involved in the Baby P case; and serial killer Joanna Dennehy.

Fraudster Farah Damji and Jayda Fransen, former deputy leader of far-right group Britain First, have also been held there.


While HM Prison Bronzefield was intended to provide improved conditions for female prisoners, it has attracted controversy for its healthcare failings and treatment of vulnerable inmates. However, the prison has also pioneered rehabilitation programs to help women turn their lives around after release. As the largest women’s prison in the UK, Bronzefield plays a complex role in the criminal justice system.


What is the capacity of Bronzefield Prison?

The current design capacity of Bronzefield is 527 inmates, making it the largest women’s prison in Europe.

What facilities does the prison have?

It has four main residential units, a mother and baby unit, an 18-bed inpatient hospital, education and skills workshops, and facilities for counseling and mental healthcare.

Who manages and operates Bronzefield Prison?

Bronzefield is run by the private company Sodexo Justice Services under contract from the UK Ministry of Justice.

See also  HM Prison Foston Hall

Why has Bronzefield been criticized in recent years?

There have been several controversies around inmate deaths linked to poor medical care. A 2019 birth of a child who died in custody also highlighted inadequate maternity services.

What rehabilitation programs does Bronzefield offer?

The prison runs skills workshops in arts, crafts and cleaning services aimed at helping inmates find employment after release. There is also education in basic English, IT and math skills.

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