hm prison dovegate

HM Prison Dovegate

HM Prison Dovegate is a Category B private men’s prison located near Uttoxeter in Staffordshire, England. The prison first opened in 2001 and is operated by Serco Group under a 25-year private finance initiative (PFI) contract with the Ministry of Justice. With a capacity of over 1,100 inmates, Dovegate holds convicted adult male prisoners serving sentences of 4 years or more with at least 18 months left to serve. The prison has faced controversies and criticisms over issues like self-harm rates, conditions and lack of access to education. However, Dovegate aims to provide training and rehabilitation programs to prepare prisoners for successful reintegration after release.

History and Background

His Majesty’s Prison Dovegate was constructed under a Private Finance Initiative contract between the UK Government and Serco Group. Serco was awarded a 25-year “Design, Build and Manage” contract to finance, design, construct and operate the prison. Construction began in 1999 on a greenfield site near the village of Marchington, close to Uttoxeter. The prison officially opened in July 2001 with an initial capacity of about 860 inmates.

In 2009, a new accommodation block called “Dovegate Therapeutic Community” was built, increasing capacity by 200 places. Further facilities were also added, allowing Dovegate to hold convicted prisoners as well as up to 130 remand (pre-trial) prisoners from local Stoke and Newcastle-under-Lyme courts.

Location and Capacity

HM Prison Dovegate is located off the A50 between Uttoxeter and Derby, near Marchington village. The prison’s official address is Prison Road, Marchington, Uttoxeter, Staffordshire ST14 8LN. Geographically, the coordinates are 52.8713°N 1.7809°W.

See also  Everton Lock-Up

The current operational capacity of Dovegate is 1,160 adult male inmates. The main prison houses 860 prisoners, while the Therapeutic Community unit has 200 places. Dovegate is a Category B prison, meaning it holds prisoners who do not need maximum security but are unlikely to try to escape.

Security Category and Prisoner Profile

As a Category B prison, Dovegate houses male prisoners who do not require maximum security but for whom escape needs to be made very difficult. Prisoners tend to be serving sentences of 4 years or more, with at least 18 months left to serve. They may have committed violent or non-violent crimes but are not considered particularly high risk or dangerous.

The majority of prisoners are adult men aged 21 and over. About 10% are under 21 years old and held separately on dedicated young offender wings. Very few prisoners are over the age of 65. Most identify as White British, with a minority of Black, Asian and minority ethnic prisoners.

Facilities and Regime

Facilities at HMP Dovegate include educational classrooms, a library, gymnasium, sports hall, multi-faith room, workshops, healthcare facility and kitchens. There are also recreation areas, playing fields, a visitor center and shop. The prison aims to provide purposeful activity and training opportunities to benefit prisoners.

Accommodation and Housing Units

Prisoner accommodation comprises 7 main residential units or “wings” holding up to 130 inmates each. There is also a Care & Separation Unit and Healthcare Centre. Wings have a mix of single and double cells with shared showers and toilet facilities. Cells contain a bed, toilet, washbasin, cabinet and TV. Some cells have phones. The Therapeutic Community has its own dedicated housing.

See also  HM Prison Shepton Mallet

Education and Vocational Training

The prison’s Education Department delivers literacy, numeracy, IT, ESOL and employability skills training. There is also distance learning, with some inmates studying Open University courses. Vocational workshops include welding, industrial cleaning, laundry, recycling, gardening and painting & decorating. Apprenticeships are available in areas like barbering, industrial cleaning and business administration.

Healthcare and Wellbeing

Dovegate has an inpatient Healthcare Centre staffed by doctors, nurses and other professionals 24/7. Primary care, mental health services and social care are provided. There is also a gymnasium, sports hall and playing fields to promote physical health. Support is available for addiction and substance misuse issues.

Faith and Pastoral Care

A multi-faith room caters for religious observance and prayer. Chaplaincy includes Church of England, Roman Catholic, Muslim and other faith leaders. Pastoral care and counselling is offered to all prisoners regardless of religion. Special diets are available for religious, cultural, ethical and medical needs.

Visits and Family Contact

Visits take place daily in the main visits hall and private family rooms. Special children’s visits allow extended contact in a child-friendly environment. Secure video calling is also available. Additional family support is provided by trained staff and charities. Maintaining family ties is seen as crucial for rehabilitation.

Controversies and Criticisms

As a private prison, Dovegate has faced scrutiny and some controversies around standards, access to services and privatization.

Self-Harm and Suicide Rates

Dovegate has seen high rates of self-harm and suicide relative to other jails. In 2018, there were over 1400 reported incidents of self-harm. Campaigners say inadequate staffing and mental health support are contributing factors.

See also  HM Prison Full Sutton

Overcrowding and Poor Conditions

With high occupancy rates, critics say Dovegate struggles with overcrowding and maintaining decent physical conditions. In 2015, inspectors found damaged cells, broken windows and shortages of clean clothes and bedding.

Lack of Access to Education

HM Inspectorate and charities have noted inconsistent access to basic education as well as delays in prisoner assessments to identify learning needs. This hinders rehabilitation efforts.

Private vs Public Debate

Some criticize the privatized model, saying profits are prioritized over rehabilitation. But others argue private jails like Dovegate enable the justice system to provide adequate prison places.

Inspections and Scrutiny

As part of the contract, Dovegate is subject to regular scrutiny and inspection by bodies like HM Inspectorate of Prisons. While issues are found on inspections, the prison generally achieves acceptable performance ratings under its targets. The operators say they strive to implement improvements recommended by inspectors.


While not without its difficulties and critics, HM Prison Dovegate continues to play an important role in the UK justice system. Going forward, improving safety, conditions and purposeful activity for prisoners will be key priorities. Effective rehabilitation programs and partnerships with public and voluntary agencies can help Dovegate achieve its aims of reducing reoffending and protecting the public.


What type of prison is Dovegate?

Dovegate is a Category B men’s private prison, holding convicted prisoners serving 4+ year sentences with at least 18 months left to serve.

Who owns and operates Dovegate Prison?

Dovegate is owned by the government but operated by Serco Group under a 25-year PFI contract awarded in 1999. Serco is responsible for finance, design, construction and operation.

How many inmates does Dovegate hold?

The current capacity is around 1,160 prisoners. The main prison houses 860 inmates, while the Therapeutic Community unit has 200 places.

What facilities are provided at the prison?

Facilities include housing units, classrooms, workshops, a library, gym, healthcare facility, kitchens, visits center, multi-faith room, and sports/recreation areas.

What rehabilitation and training programs are offered?

Prisoners can access education courses, vocational training in trades, ESOL classes, apprenticeships and Open University courses to gain skills.

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