hm prison guys marsh

HM Prison Guys Marsh

HM Prison Guys Marsh is a Category C men’s prison located near Shaftesbury in Dorset, England. With a long and complex history dating back to its use as a US military hospital in World War II, Guys Marsh has undergone many changes over the decades. Today it holds over 400 adult male inmates and faces significant challenges around control, safety, and rehabilitation.

From Military Hospital to Borstal

The grounds of Guys Marsh originally housed a US military hospital during WWII. In 1960, the facility was converted into HM Borstal Guys Marsh, used to hold juvenile offenders. The buildings at that time were mostly basic Nissen huts left over from the hospital days. It wasn’t until the 1980s that major rebuilding and renovation of the site began.

Becoming an Adult Prison

In 1984, Guys Marsh transitioned from a borstal to a Young Offender Institution. By 1992, its role expanded again as it began accepting adult prisoners as well. After new perimeter fencing went up to make it a closed facility, Guys Marsh rapidly increased capacity by several hundred inmates.

Current Layout and Services

Today, Guys Marsh contains seven residential units providing cellular accommodation along with one less-secure unit. The prison offers workshops in areas like farm management, laundry, cleaning, and bricklaying. Some even provide recognized qualifications for inmates. There is also a visitor center on site.

See also  HM Prison Leicester

Population and Security Level

As of 2018, Guys Marsh held 434 prisoners and was classified as a Category C facility. Category C prisons are for inmates who cannot be trusted in open conditions but who are unlikely to make a determined escape attempt.

Ongoing Issues and Challenges

In recent years, Guys Marsh has faced severe criticism over its lack of control, safety, and poor conditions for prisoners. Gang activity, drugs, and violence have become major problems plaguing the institution.

Criticism from Watchdog Groups

In 2002, the Board of Visitors highlighted Guys Marsh’s failure to meet government standards for reducing reoffending rates. They blamed insufficient staff and funds leading to deficient facilities. The board also raised concerns about healthcare after local GPs withdrew services.

Bleak Inspection Reports

An inspection in 2014 found the prison to be in complete crisis, with officers having “all but lost control” over inmates. A follow-up inspection in 2016 concluded that not enough had been done to rectify these failures. In some ways, conditions had worsened.

Rampant Gangs, Drugs, and Violence

By 2014, gangs operated openly within Guys Marsh, fueled by easily available spice and alcohol. Prisoner-on-prisoner violence was rampant. Inmates lived in constant fear, afraid to leave their cells for months on end due to threats and bullying.

Inadequate Supervision of Prisoners

Prisoner supervision has been wholly inadequate. Inmates brazenly push in lines, dress as they like, and smoke at will without reprimand from the few staff present. With bullying spiraling out of control, some vulnerable prisoners have even been moved to separate wings for their safety.

See also  HM Prison Deerbolt

Attempts to Improve Conditions

After the damning 2014 inspection report, the prison was given six months’ notice to finally tackle its systemic issues before a follow-up inspection in 2016. Unfortunately, efforts to turn the situation around proved too little, too late.

Too Few Changes Implemented

Despite the advance warning, inspectors found the prison had failed to make any meaningful progress in addressing concerns raised in 2014. Necessary changes were either not implemented at all or were rolled out slowly and ineffectively.

Continued Deterioration

In some areas like the prevalence of drugs and violence, the prison had actually deteriorated even further. Guys Marsh remained unable to assert basic control and ensure safe, humane conditions.


In summary, HM Prison Guys Marsh has faced severe difficulties in recent years stemming from its loss of authority over the inmate population. Once a military hospital, then a borstal, Guys Marsh now houses over 400 adult men. But problems like understaffing, budget constraints, poor supervision, gangs, drugs, and violence have plagued the institution. Attempts to turn things around have so far failed, leaving the prison’s future uncertain. Major reforms will be needed to reassert control, boost safety, and improve rehabilitation.


Where is Guys Marsh Prison located?

Guys Marsh is located near Shaftesbury in Dorset, England.

What security level is it classified as?

It is a Category C men’s prison.

How many prisoners does Guys Marsh hold?

As of 2018 it held 434 prisoners.

What issues has the prison faced?

It has faced issues like lack of control, inadequate staffing, poor conditions, drugs/violence, and negative inspection reports.

See also  HM Prison Gloucester

When did it change from a borstal to a young offender and adult prison?

It became a young offender prison in 1984 and started accepting adult prisoners in 1992.

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