hm prison lincoln

HM Prison Lincoln

HM Prison Lincoln, located in Lincolnshire, England, has a long and rich history spanning over 150 years. From its Victorian origins to its continued operation today, Lincoln Prison has witnessed dramatic changes in prison policy, notorious inmates, riots and redevelopment plans. This article explores the evolution of Lincoln Prison – its architecture and heritage, the infamous prisoners it held, challenges it faces today, and what the future may hold for one of England’s oldest operational prisons.


Origins and Early Years (1872-1900)

Lincoln Prison first opened in 1872, replacing the outdated prison at Lincoln Castle. The original Victorian buildings were designed by architect Frederick Peck and are now Grade II listed buildings, known for their imposing Gothic revival style.

When it first opened, Lincoln served as the local prison for Lincolnshire and surrounding counties. In its early years, Lincoln held remand and convicted prisoners like any standard Victorian gaol. Conditions were likely unsanitary and overcrowded.

Executions at the Prison (1900-1961)

Between 1900 and 1961, Lincoln Prison was the site of 18 judicial executions. Among those executed was child murderer Fred Nodder in 1937, whose case led to a change in English law regarding the need for a body as evidence in murder trials.

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The final execution, and most controversial, was that of Wasyl Gnypiuk in 1961. Gnypiuk, a Polish immigrant, was hanged for the murder of his landlady – the last execution at Lincoln before capital punishment was abolished.

Recent History – Riots, Overcrowding and Reforms

In October 2002, a major riot broke out at Lincoln after a prison officer was attacked. Inmates seized control of parts of the prison and caused substantial damage. It took eight hours to restore order.

A 2003 report labeled Lincoln as the most overcrowded prison in England. Chronic overcrowding, inconsistent leadership and poor conditions sparked the riot the year before. But reforms were soon implemented.

Facilities and Operations

Prison Wings and Accommodation

Today, Lincoln houses around 650 adult male inmates in four main residential wings – A, B, C and E. There is also a segregation unit for high-risk prisoners. The wings contain typical Victorian-era barred cells, though some have been refurbished.

Security Category and Prisoner Types

As a Category B prison, Lincoln holds convicted adult men from surrounding counties like Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire and East Yorkshire. The prisoners are classified as Medium security.

Workshops, Education and Regime

Opportunities for purposeful activity at Lincoln include workshops, education programs, vocational courses, laundry services and a gym. The prison regime aims to provide structure, training and rehabilitation.

Staff and Management

The prison is managed by Her Majesty’s Prison Service. Around 200 staff oversee the custody and rehabilitation of inmates at Lincoln. The current Governor is Matt Spencer.

Notable Former Inmates

Famous Criminals

Lincoln has held some of England’s most notorious criminals like John George Haigh, the “Acid Bath Murderer”, and child killer Fred Nodder.

More recently it housed Charles Salvador (formerly Charles Bronson), dubbed Britain’s “most violent prisoner”.

Political Prisoners

Irish nationalist Éamon de Valera was imprisoned at Lincoln for his role in the 1916 Easter Rising. Author and politician Jeffrey Archer also served time for perjury.

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Lincoln was used to hold suffragette protesters campaigning for women’s right to vote in the early 20th century.

Impact on Lincoln

Architecture and Heritage

The original 19th century cell blocks at Lincoln are architecturally significant examples of Victorian prison design. English Heritage considers it among the most complete Victorian prisons in England.

Groups like the Victorian Society have called for Lincoln’s Grade II listing to be upgraded to Grade II* due to its history and architecture.

Economy and Employment

As a major employer for Lincoln, the prison provides jobs for around 200 staff. The workshops and laundry also contribute economic productivity to the region.

Some locals have raised concerns about reliance on the prison, calling for more diverse employment options. But many see the prison as an important source of steady jobs.

Life Inside Lincoln Prison

Daily Routine and Activities

A typical day for an inmate at Lincoln involves waking up early, collecting medications, going to workshops or education programs, associating with fellow inmates, yard time, and being locked in cells at set times.

Prisoners who engage in training and work can earn bonuses. But long periods of cell confinement and isolation are common.

Challenges for Prisoners

Overcrowded, Victorian-era facilities take a toll on prisoner welfare. Disturbances and violence periodically erupt due to close quarters and tensions. Access to rehabilitation services can be limited.

Mental illness and substance abuse are pressing issues among the inmate population. Providing adequate healthcare is an ongoing challenge.

Rehabilitation and Training

Lincoln aims to provide basic education, trade skills and offending behaviour courses to inmates, but funding cuts have impacted these programs. Vocational training helps employability upon release.

Family visits, counselling services and faith programs also contribute to rehabilitation and lower recidivism. But more investment is needed.

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The Future of HMP Lincoln

Government Policy and Funding Cuts

With ongoing budget cuts, what will the future hold for Lincoln Prison? Funding shortages already impact facilities upkeep, staffing, healthcare and rehabilitation services.

If budgets are slashed further, Lincoln may continue to decay or even face closure. But if budgets stabilize, conditions could improve.

Calls for Modernization or Closure

Some criminal justice advocates argue Victorian-era prisons like Lincoln are unsuitable and should be closed. But closure would lead to overcrowding elsewhere.

If kept open, Lincoln requires extensive modernization to improve health, safety and rehabilitation. But major upgrades require substantial funding.

Potential Redevelopment Plans

If closed, Lincoln Prison could be redeveloped. The historic cell blocks may gain heritage status. Other sections could become residential buildings, offices or community facilities.

Partial closure and redevelopment could fund modernization of some wings to remain operational. Creative redevelopment plans preserve the heritage while improving prison conditions.


With its imposing architecture, notorious past prisoners and recent reforms, Lincoln Prison represents both the opportunities and challenges facing English correctional facilities today. As an aging Victorian institution, Lincoln has rich history but faces modernization pressures. Creative solutions could see Lincoln Prison updated, partially redeveloped or even closed. But its legacy will remain as an integral part of Lincoln’s social and architectural history.


When did Lincoln Prison open?

Lincoln Prison first opened in 1872 to replace the outdated Lincoln Castle prison. The original Victorian cell blocks were designed by architect Frederick Peck.

What famous criminals were held at Lincoln Prison?

Some notorious inmates included John George Haigh, the “Acid Bath Murderer”, Irish nationalist Eamon de Valera, and more recently Charles Salvador (Charles Bronson).

What happened at Lincoln Prison in 2002?

In October 2002 a major riot broke out after a prison officer was attacked by an inmate. Inmates seized control of parts of the prison for eight hours before order could be restored.

Why was Lincoln called the most overcrowded prison in England?

A 2003 report highlighted chronic overcrowding at Lincoln. The prison held over 700 inmates despite only having capacity for around 650. Overcrowding was blamed for helping spark the 2002 riot.

What opportunities are there for prisoner rehabilitation?

Lincoln aims to provide education, vocational skills training, work programs, counselling and faith services to aid rehabilitation. But funding cuts have impacted the availability of these programs.

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