HM Prison Highpoint South
HM Prison Highpoint South, originally opened as Highpoint Prison in 1977, is located in Stradishall, Suffolk. The prison was constructed on the site of a former RAF base that closed in 1970. Highpoint operates as an adult male Category C facility under the management of Her Majesty’s Prison Service.
Location and Security Classification
The village of Stradishall, where Highpoint South resides, is situated approximately 9 miles from Haverhill in the English county of Suffolk. The prison holds convicted adult men serving sentences up to life in prison for serious offenses. Highpoint South is categorized as a Category C prison, indicating those incarcerated present a lower security risk than Category A or B.
Population and Capacity
As of January 2022, the certified normal capacity of Highpoint South was listed as 1357 prisoners. Most of those incarcerated are serving sentences for non-violent crimes.
Facilities and Inmate Programs
Highpoint contains ten living units with in-cell electricity, television, and sanitation. Work opportunities exist through workshops including welding, tailoring, and private sector contract services. An outdoor market garden provides additional work. Education classes offer inmates various vocational qualifications and skills.
Staff and Administration
A team of prison officers, educators, and program specialists operate Highpoint South. The current governor overseeing prison administration is Nigel Smith. Healthcare staff attend to inmate medical needs.
Construction by Prisoner Labor
When first built, the prisoners themselves constructed Highpoint, saving £2 million in labor costs. The initial building solely housed male prisoners.
Separating the North and South Prisons
In 1997, part of Highpoint became a female prison called Edmunds Hill. The definitive separation of the two prisons finally occurred in 2003.
Healthcare and Condition Criticisms
After a 2005 inspection, the facility received criticism for overcrowded, inadequate cells and subpar healthcare. Further reports in 2007 described the state of the prison accommodation as unfit for purpose.
Drug Rehab Worker Scandal
In 2003, drug therapy contract workers were dismissed over inappropriate relationships formed with male prisoners. The employer Addaction lost their rehabilitation contract.
Inmate Accommodation and Cells
Inside Highpoint South, the cell blocks consist of two-man cells with electricity, television, and personal hygiene facilities. While cramped, the cells provide basic needs.
Work and Education Opportunities
Prisoners can develop vocational skills through sheet metal fabrication, carpentry, and textiles workshops. Outside, the garden center provides landscaping and horticulture experience. Education offers literacy, computer skills, art, and business courses resulting in qualifications.
Visitation and Family Contact
To maintain close bonds with relatives, a dedicated Visits Hall operates daily facilitated by a Visitor Center run by a children and families trust. The facility allows refreshments and a welcoming atmosphere during visitation sessions.
Some of the most famous former inmates at the prison include:
- Blake Fielder-Civil – Amy Winehouse’s ex-husband
- Tony Martin – Farmer imprisoned for fatally shooting intruders
- George Michael – chart-topping pop musician
- Lester Piggott – renowned champion jockey
Their notoriety contributed to public awareness and perceptions of Highpoint South.
Issues and Controversies
Overcrowding and Poor Conditions
With only basic amenities in outdated units, the aging prison has faced overcrowding and substandard living conditions for prisoners. Cells inadequately house two inmates with sparse furnishings.
Understaffing and Low Morale
Reports point to short staffing and low team morale at the prison. This creates an unsafe environment for both guards and prisoners due to lack of supervision.
Lack of Rehab and Training Programs
Inspectors noted too few constructive activities like education, skills building, and rehabilitation programs for inmates. This results in idleness, monotony, and deprivation for prisoners.
Plans for Improvement and Expansion
There are hopes to update facilities and expand workshops, education, and vocational training. This would provide constructive outlets for prisoners and preparation for finding employment after release.
Preparing Inmates for Release
More emphasis on counseling, developing life skills, cognitive behavioral therapy, and substance abuse treatment aims to equip inmates for re-entry into society and reduce recidivism.
While HM Prison Highpoint South still faces considerable challenges with its aging infrastructure, overcrowding, and lack of programming, incremental improvements continue. Ideally, addressing these issues can transform Highpoint into a rehabilitation-focused facility that adequately prepares inmates for building law-abiding lives post-release. Staff training, upgraded units, and robust re-entry services all work together to achieve this goal. Despite past controversies, Highpoint South serves an important role in the UK criminal justice system.
Q: What security category is HM Prison Highpoint South?
A: It is a Category C prison holding adult men convicted of primarily non-violent crimes.
Q: How many inmates does Highpoint South hold?
A: Its certified normal capacity is 1357 prisoners as of January 2022.
Q: What issues has the prison faced regarding conditions?
A: There has been criticism about overcrowded, dilapidated cells and inadequate healthcare.
Q: How does the prison aim to prepare inmates for release?
A: More rehab programs, education, counseling, and skills training are planned to reduce recidivism.
Q: What famous people were once inmates at Highpoint South?
A: Notable prisoners included George Michael, Tony Martin, and Amy Winehouse’s ex Blake Fielder-Civil.