HM Prison Camp Hill
HM Prison Camp Hill is a former Category C men’s prison located on the outskirts of Newport on the Isle of Wight. The prison was constructed in 1912 using prisoner labor from nearby Parkhurst Prison. Camp Hill was formally opened by Winston Churchill and began operations soon after.
In the early decades of its operation, Camp Hill took in prisoners from across the south of England and held a variety of prisoner types and security categories. It functioned as an auxiliary to Parkhurst and Albany Prisons also located on the Isle of Wight.
Controversies and Criticisms
Throughout its history, Camp Hill had its share of controversies and criticisms. In April 2007, a report by Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons criticized Camp Hill for its lack of direction and failure to improve conditions. Concerns were raised about the number of inmates not engaged in vocational work programs.
Weeks later, the prison courted more controversy when it was revealed an arsonist had been mistakenly released 29 months too early. The prisoner was quickly recaptured and returned to Camp Hill.
Becoming Part of HMP Isle of Wight
In 2008, plans were announced to merge Camp Hill along with Albany and Parkhurst Prisons into one larger prison called HMP Isle of Wight. The three facilities would be run by a single governor under the new structure. While the unified prison adopted the Isle of Wight name, the Camp Hill, Albany, and Parkhurst names were retained for the constituent sites.
In January 2013, the UK Ministry of Justice announced that Camp Hill prison would close as part of a reorganization of prison places across the country. The site formally ceased operations in March 2013, marking the end of over 100 years of activity.
Facilities and Operations
Security Category and Prisoner Type
During its operational history, Camp Hill predominantly held Category C adult male prisoners. These prisoners were considered unlikely to make escape attempts but may have had a history of non-compliance within the prison system.
At its peak capacity, the prison could hold up to 614 prisoners. The average prisoner population in the final years was around 500.
Education and Work Programs
Like other Isle of Wight prisons, Camp Hill offered education programs to prisoners including basic literacy and numeracy, IT skills, arts and crafts, and industrial cleaning qualifications.
Prison work programs included industrial workshops, kitchen duties, waste management, horticulture, laundry services, and painting/decorating. Participants could earn small amounts of prison pay.
Much of the accommodation at Camp Hill consisted of small two-person cells. Some inmates were housed in larger dormitory-style units. Cells were furnished with bunk beds, toilet/sink units, shelving, and lockers.
Common areas includedShared dining halls, recreation rooms, an exercise yard, library, kitchens, and chaplaincy. In later years, conditions were criticized as cramped and outdated.
Notable Events and Incidents
Criticisms Over Conditions
In April 2007, a report criticized Camp Hill for poor conditions and lack of coherence. Concerns were raised over too few inmates in vocational work programs. The prison struggled with limited staff and resources.
Mistaken Early Release Controversy
In 2007, Camp Hill drew media attention when an arsonist was mistakenly released 29 months early. Police quickly rearrested the prisoner, Buster Pocock, and returned him to Camp Hill.
Drug Dealer Refuses to Leave Cell
In 2008, a convicted drug dealer at Camp Hill refused to leave his cell for a court hearing, citing overcrowding concerns. He stated forcing him out would violate his human rights by causing him to lose his cell permanently.
Future Use of Site
Proposals for Housing Development
After its closure in 2013, the Camp Hill site was proposed for a large housing development given its prime location. However, no housing plans have materialized so far.
The land and former prison buildings are still owned by the Ministry of Justice with no indications of plans to sell the site for redevelopment. For now, the Camp Hill complex remains vacant aside from some temporary uses.
When did Camp Hill Prison open?
Camp Hill Prison first opened in 1912.
What kind of prisoners were held at Camp Hill?
Camp Hill predominantly held adult male Category C prisoners who were considered unlikely to attempt escape.
Why did Camp Hill Prison close?
Camp Hill closed in 2013 due to a reorganization and consolidation of prisons on the Isle of Wight. Declining prisoner numbers contributed to the decision to close it.
What is the current status of the Camp Hill site?
The former prison is currently vacant. The Ministry of Justice still owns the land and buildings. There are no definite plans for the site.
Were there any major incidents at Camp Hill Prison?
Some notable incidents included the mistaken early release of an arsonist in 2007 and a drug dealer’s refusal to leave his cell in 2008 amid overcrowding concerns.