hm prison lewes

HM Prison Lewes

Her Majesty’s Prison Lewes, known simply as HMP Lewes, is a category B local prison located in the town of Lewes in East Sussex. With a history dating back to the 19th century, Lewes has faced many ups and downs over the decades but continues to serve as an important prison in the South East. This article will provide an overview of HMP Lewes – its history, facilities, issues, and notable inmates.

The History of HMP Lewes

HMP Lewes is a Victorian-era prison, originally built in 1853 to replace the outdated Lewes Gaol that had stood since 1791. The old Lewes Gaol had become far too small, despite expansions in 1818. After the new prison opened, the old gaol was sold to the Admiralty to house prisoners from the Crimean War, before being demolished in 1963.

Some of the early 20th century prisoners held at Lewes were famous figures from the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland, including Éamon de Valera and Thomas Ashe. The prison also housed George Witton, a Bushveldt Carbineers lieutenant court-martialed for murdering Boer prisoners during the Boer War. After a campaign led by Winston Churchill, Witton was pardoned in 1904.

In 2004, a £1 million healthcare suite opened at Lewes Prison, with both physical and mental health treatment facilities for prisoners. However, inspections in 2008 found issues like prisoners eating meals in their toilet areas due to overcrowding. This led to a new accommodation block being built that year for 174 more inmates.

See also  HM Prison Wormwood Scrubs

Wings and Facilities at HMP Lewes

The prison today has a capacity for 742 male inmates. Different wings serve various functions:

  • A Wing – Drug and alcohol rehabilitation (134 places)
  • B Wing – Care & Separation Unit (16 places)
  • C Wing – Sentenced and unconvicted prisoners (150 places)
  • F Wing – Vulnerable prisoners including sex offenders (173 places)
  • G Wing – First Night Centre for new inmates (23 places)
  • K Wing – Integrated Drug Treatment System unit (22 places)
  • L & M Wings – Sentenced prisoner accommodation (174 places total)
  • Healthcare Centre – 9 places for prisoners needing medical care

The accommodation is a mix of shared and single cells. Educational facilities are offered such as IT, literacy, numeracy and life skills classes. Work opportunities exist in the prison workshops and libraries are accessible weekly. The Listeners Scheme provides peer support for those feeling suicidal.

Inspections Reveal Overcrowding and Mental Health Issues

In 2016, an inspection found concerning issues at the prison. With 640 prisoners, HMP Lewes was overcrowded. Over a quarter of inmates reported feeling suicidal or depressed. Anti-ligature knives were lacking for some staff. The COVID-19 pandemic led to more offenders on recall to Lewes from 2020 to 2021.

These findings highlighted the need to address problems like prisoner mental health strains, outdated facilities, and staff shortages to improve safety and rehabilitation.

Notable Inmates Over the Years

Some famous names have spent time within the walls of HMP Lewes:

  • Mick Jagger – The Rolling Stones frontman was imprisoned for drug offenses in 1967.
  • Reggie Kray – The notorious East End gangster served time in Lewes in the 1950s.
  • Khalid Masood – The terrorist responsible for 2017’s Westminster attack was jailed here prior for violent crimes.
  • Tom O’Carroll – A pro-pedophilia activist convicted of child molestation did time in Lewes.
See also  Norman Cross Prison

Lewes has housed many Irish republican prisoners, London gangsters, and violent extremists over the decades. While often overlooked by the public, its history has intersected with many high-profile figures and cases.

Conclusion and Future Outlook

In summary, HMP Lewes is an aging yet important category B prison in East Sussex that has faced many ups and downs since its Victorian founding. Issues like overcrowding, poor facilities, inmate mental health strains, and staffing shortages have presented challenges in recent years.

Moving forward, refurbishment and modernization investments along with a focus on rehabilitation and safety will be key to ensuring Lewes can effectively serve its local prisoner population. Though it has weathered many storms, HMP Lewes continues adapting to the needs of the present day.


When was HMP Lewes built originally?

HMP Lewes was originally built in 1853 to replace the outdated 18th century Lewes Gaol. It is a Victorian-era prison.

What category of prison is Lewes designated as?

HMP Lewes is categorized as a category B local prison, holding adult males on remand or serving sentences.

What is the current capacity of the prison?

Today, HMP Lewes has an operational capacity of 742 male inmates across its various wings and units.

What are some of the issues identified by recent inspections?

Inspections have found issues like overcrowding, poor inmate mental health, outdated facilities, and staffing shortages that need addressing.

Who are some of the most famous former prisoners held there?

Some notable inmates have included Irish republicans like De Valera, rockstar Mick Jagger, gangster Reggie Kray, and terrorist Khalid Masood.

See also  HM Prison Peterborough

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