HM Prison Eastwood Park
HM Prison Eastwood Park is a closed women’s prison located in the village of Falfield in South Gloucestershire, England. Operated by Her Majesty’s Prison Service, it opened originally as a detention center for male juveniles before being converted into a women’s prison in 1996. With a population over 400, Eastwood Park has faced many controversies and challenges around issues of overcrowding, risk of self-harm among inmates, and providing adequate facilities and support. However, the prison aims to provide rehabilitation and training opportunities for its prisoners.
History and Background
Eastwood Park first opened in the 1950s as a male juvenile detention center, housing young male offenders. In the 1970s, it transitioned to become a male Young Offenders Institution. After the closing of the former women’s prison Pucklechurch in 1995, Eastwood Park underwent conversion into a women’s prison.
The first female inmates were transferred from Pucklechurch to Eastwood Park in March 1996. At this time, the prison received an influx of staff and prisoners to populate the new women’s facility. Initial prisoner capacity was around 400.
Conversion to Women’s Prison
The conversion to a women’s prison in 1996 required extensive renovation and restructuring of Eastwood Park. Facilities were adapted to serve the needs of the incoming female prisoner population.
This major transition also involved training staff on working with female prisoners, who have different needs compared to male prisoners. Staff had to adjust to supervising women inmates and providing targeted rehabilitation programs.
The conversion enabled improved proximity for women prisoners to be located closer to their families and children. However, adequate infrastructure and staffing took time to develop after initial opening.
Controversies and Issues
Eastwood Park has faced several controversies and scrutiny from prison inspectors and human rights groups over the years regarding the conditions for prisoners.
Overcrowding and Cell Size
In 1998, the Chief Inspector of Prisons warned that a number of prisoners were being kept in cells below the minimum recommended size. This raised concerns about capacity and overcrowding issues.
Risk of Suicide and Self-Harm
A 2002 inspection found 56 women had been identified as suicide risks in a single month. There were 47 recorded cases of self-harm that same month, indicating a mental health crisis.
Inadequate Staff Training
Reports criticized the lack of proper staff training to humanely manage female prisoners and provide sufficient rehabilitation. This contributed to the poor conditions.
Facilities and Programs
Despite the controversies, Eastwood Park aims to provide various facilities and programs to engage women prisoners, including:
Education and Vocational Training
Vocational courses are offered in subjects like cookery, beauty therapy, business skills and more. These provide skills for employment after release.
Prisoners can participate in paid employment within the prison doing industrial work, janitorial work, kitchen duties and other jobs.
Gym and Recreation
The prison has a well-equipped gym facility for physical education and leisure time. Group exercise classes are also organized.
Health and Wellbeing
Resources like the Health Bar provide health and beauty products to promote personal care and mental wellbeing. Yoga and meditation classes also support prisoner wellness.
Eastwood Park has had several recent governors, including:
- Zoe Short (2022 to present)
- Guy Pidduck (2021-2022)
- Suzy Dymond-White (2015-2021)
These governors have each undertaken reforms to address ongoing issues at the prison and improve conditions. However, problems persist.
Some high profile prisoners include:
- Shauna Hoare – Convicted of manslaughter in the 2015 Becky Watts murder case. She spent time on remand at Eastwood Park.
Life as a Prisoner at Eastwood Park
For the approximately 350 women incarcerated at Eastwood Park, daily life involves strict routines and challenging living conditions.
Typical Day Schedule
A typical prisoner’s day begins around 7 AM with the morning wake up call. After breakfast, inmates participate in morning work duties, vocational programs or exercise time until lunch.
The afternoon may consist of more work time, education courses, or recreational activities. Prisoners are locked in their cells by 8:30 PM.
Prisoners are housed in shared cells with bunk beds, small sinks and toilets. Cell conditions can be unsanitary and spartan, with reports of rodent infestations. Access to fresh air is minimal for many.
Interactions with Other Prisoners
There are risks of bullying and volatile confrontations within the prisoner population. However, many form friendships and supportive networks. There is a social hierarchy and groups formed along racial, ethnic and gang affiliations.
Visitation and Communication with Family
Opportunities to receive visits from approved family and friends provide an emotional lifeline. Phone calls are permitted on a restricted basis, vital for those with children. Letters are also essential contact to the outside world.
Access to Healthcare
Inmates can request medical appointments with nurses and doctors. However, long waits for care and medication changes are common complaints, with limited resources.
Mental Health Support
For prisoners suffering from trauma, addiction and other disorders, confinement can worsen mental health. Counseling resources are insufficient for the levels of need. Isolation and self-harm are ongoing risks.
Rehabilitation and Release from Eastwood Park
For prisoners approaching release dates, Eastwood Park provides some rehabilitation programs to facilitate transition back into society.
Preparing for Release
Prior to release, inmates may be transferred to open conditions. Here they can access education, employment and begin probation meetings to start planning for release.
Probation and Resettlement
Working with a probation officer, prisoners are assisted in arranging housing, employment, healthcare and finances for after prison.
Support After Release
The prison aims to connect former inmates with community resources for counseling, addiction treatment, job assistance and other required services upon release. However, lack of funding makes consistency difficult.
Impact and Future of Eastwood Park
While Eastwood Park has provided increased access to incarceration closer to home for women prisoners and their families, the facility still faces many challenges.
Overcrowding, self-harm risks, poor physical conditions, and lack of staff training continue to impair the prison’s ability to humanely support inmates.
With increased investment, the issues within Eastwood Park could be ameliorated through infrastructure upgrades, mental health resources, hiring additional staff and reducing prisoner capacity.
What the Future Could Hold
Ideally, Eastwood Park can work toward operating as a truly rehabilitative community that provides education, counseling, vocational skills and hope to the marginalized women who are confined within its walls. Implementing progressive reforms remains a gradual process.
In summary, HM Prison Eastwood Park has a complex history and currently faces considerable difficulties in its operation. However, with greater governmental prioritization of proper funding and resources, Eastwood Park can work toward positively impacting the lives of female inmates through rehabilitation. Providing the tools and support for women prisoners to build better futures should remain the focus. Continued scrutiny, activism and policy improvements are still required to reach these goals. There are always opportunities for positive change when it comes to how England administers justice.
What types of inmates are housed at Eastwood Park?
Eastwood Park houses adult women inmates of various security classifications. The prison population includes women convicted of crimes ranging from drug offenses to manslaughter and murder.
What is the daily routine like for prisoners?
Prisoners must wake early for breakfast before proceeding to vocational programs, prison jobs, exercise time, or educational classes. They are locked in cells by early evening.
Can inmates work while incarcerated at Eastwood Park?
Yes, there are various paid prison jobs that inmates can apply for, such as kitchen duties, janitorial work, laundry, and textiles manufacturing.
How can families communicate with incarcerated loved ones?
In-person visitation, phone calls, and letters are the main forms of communication between prisoners and their loved ones. Communication is restricted for security reasons.
What rehabilitation services are provided to inmates?
Eastwood Park offers some vocational training, educational courses, employment programs inside the prison, counseling, and pre-release preparation. But rehabilitation services remain limited.