hm prison huntercombe

HM Prison Huntercombe

HM Prison Huntercombe has a long and storied history. Originally built as an internment camp called Camp 020R during World War II, it served as a reserve to the main Camp 020 facility in London. Rudolf Hess, Deputy Führer of Nazi Germany, was briefly held at Camp 020R in 1941 after parachuting into Scotland.

After the war ended, the site was converted into a prison in 1946. Over the ensuing decades, Huntercombe has undergone various renovations, so few of the original wartime structures remain standing today. The prison initially held adult male inmates and operated as a borstal for youth offenders until 1983. Then, in 2000, Huntercombe transitioned into a prison for male juveniles aged 15-18 years old.


In October 2002, a scathing report by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons lambasted Huntercombe for severe overcrowding, deeming the prison unsafe and recommending a major population reduction. Five years later, the Independent Monitoring Board declared Huntercombe a failure in its core mission of rehabilitating young offenders. The report also took the prison to task for its lack of mental health facilities and for accepting inmates with psychiatric disorders that staff were not equipped to handle.

After the number of juvenile detainees dropped nationwide, Huntercombe stopped housing minors in 2010. It reopened as an adult Category C facility for up to 400 men. Despite some praise for its staff and race relations initiatives, Huntercombe remained mired in controversy.

Resettlement Concerns

In recent years, independent watchdogs have voiced alarm about deficient re-entry planning and support at Huntercombe. The Independent Monitoring Board found in 2017 that the prison’s resettlement budget was minimal, creating an “unfairness” between UK and foreign nationals. Though Huntercombe tried expanding re-entry programs in 2018, its overall budget from the Ministry of Justice remained inadequate.

See also  HM Prison Altcourse

Notable Inmates

Boris Becker

In 2022, German tennis legend Boris Becker was sentenced to two and a half years at Huntercombe for illegally transferring large sums of money and hiding assets after being declared bankrupt.


HM Prison Huntercombe has undergone many shifts in purpose and population over its 75+ year history. While its sports/chaplaincy facilities and racial integration have won praise, Huntercombe has also faced criticism for overcrowding, rehabilitation failures, and underfunded resettlement programs. Striking an appropriate balance remains a work in progress.


  • What was Huntercombe’s original purpose?
    • It was built as an internment camp called Camp 020R during WWII.
  • When did it become a prison?
    • Huntercombe began operating as a prison in 1946 after the war.
  • What types of inmates has it housed?
    • Originally adult males and borstal youth, then young offenders from 2000-2010, before reverting back to an adult male prison.
  • What were some of the controversies around Huntercombe?
    • Mainly overcrowding, lack of rehabilitation success, and insufficient mental health and resettlement resources.
  • Who is Huntercombe’s most famous former inmate?
    • Tennis star Boris Becker, who served time there in 2022 for bankruptcy fraud.

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