HM Prison Kennet
HM Prison Kennet was a short-lived, yet significant prison located in Maghull, Merseyside. While only open for less than a decade, Kennet Prison highlighted issues of overcrowding and unsustainability in the British prison system.
History and Opening of the Prison
Facing pressure from overpopulated regional prisons, the National Offender Management Service planned a new facility in 2006. By converting existing buildings on the East Site of Ashworth Hospital, Kennet Prison was opened in September 2007, though not officially opened until February 2008.
Conversion of Medical Buildings
The prison was converted from medical facilities already located on the Ashworth Hospital site. This allowed the new prison to be constructed quickly and on a budget.
Cost of Conversion
The conversion of the Ashworth buildings into Kennet Prison was completed at a cost of £19 million – a relatively low cost for establishing a new facility.
Accepting Inmates and Official Opening
Kennet began accepting inmates from nearby regions in September 2007. The prison was then officially opened in February 2008, though it had already been housing prisoners for months before the official ceremony.
Almost immediately, Kennet Prison began suffering from serious overcrowding issues. The prison was taking in more inmates than its facilities could properly accommodate.
Rating as Most Overcrowded Prison
In April 2010, just two years after opening, Kennet was rated the most overcrowded prison in England and Wales. An inspection found the prison was operating at a staggering 193% capacity.
Operating at Almost Double Capacity
With a population of 342, but a capacity of just 177, Kennet was found to be running at nearly double its intended inmate population. This overcrowding created unsafe and unsanitary conditions.
Facilities and Operations
Despite the overcrowding issues, Kennet continued operating as an adult male Category C prison for its duration.
Category C Adult Males
The prison held Category C adult male inmates from nearby regions who were low-risk and preparing for release.
Unit and Cell Layout
The units in the converted medical buildings predominantly featured double occupancy cells with integrated sanitation facilities. There were also showers, serveries, and association rooms on each unit’s landings.
Workshops and Education
Kennet offered workshops and educational courses to engage inmates, including construction trades, catering, IT, art, and business studies.
Visitation and Amenities
The prison had a visitors center with a play area for children and amenities for disabled visitors, allowing inmates to maintain family ties.
Closure of the Prison
In May 2016, it was announced that Kennet Prison would close in 2017, less than a decade after opening.
Reasons for Closure
High operating costs and issues stemming from the repurposed medical buildings were cited as the reasons for the planned closure.
Timeframe for Closure
Kennet Prison was scheduled to close by July 2017. The prison ultimately closed a bit earlier in December 2016.
Returning Site to NHS Trust
After its closure, the Kennet site was returned to the ownership of the Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust for reuse.
Conclusion and Significance of Kennet Prison
While HM Prison Kennet was only briefly operational, its shortcomings highlighted important issues within the British prison system. The rapid overcrowding and unsustainability demonstrated the system’s lack of capacity and resources. Kennet served as an example of the complications in opening new facilities, even by converting existing buildings. While perhaps a creative solution, Kennet showed that prison expansion requires more planning and investment to be viable long-term. The story of Kennet Prison will hopefully provide lessons that can improve the prison system moving forward.
Where was Kennet Prison located?
Kennet Prison was located in Maghull, Merseyside in England. It was constructed on the site of Ashworth Hospital.
What type of inmates were housed at Kennet?
Kennet was a Category C men’s prison holding low-risk adult male inmates from nearby regions.
How long was Kennet Prison open?
Kennet Prison first began accepting prisoners in September 2007. It officially opened in February 2008. The prison closed in December 2016, less than 10 years after opening.
Why did Kennet Prison close so quickly?
High operating costs and issues caused by the repurposed medical facility buildings led to the prison’s premature closure after just under a decade.
What happened to Kennet Prison after it closed?
The Kennet Prison site was returned to the ownership of the Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust. The buildings were likely repurposed again for medical uses.