HM Prison Lowdham Grange
HMP Lowdham Grange is a Category B prison for adult males located in the village of Lowdham near Nottingham in Nottinghamshire, England. The prison first opened in 1998 on the site of a former borstal that had closed in 1982. Lowdham Grange was built and is operated as a private prison, currently under the management of Sodexo Justice Services. With a capacity of around 920 prisoners, Lowdham Grange serves as a closed training prison for both determinate and indeterminate sentenced prisoners.
Facilities at Lowdham Grange
The accommodation at Lowdham Grange consists mainly of single-occupancy cells, with some double cells. Some of the cells have en-suite shower facilities. The prison offers workshop opportunities in areas like bricklaying, plumbing, and industrial cleaning. Education and training programs focus on electronics, painting/decorating, and can lead to NVQ qualifications that prisoners can achieve while incarcerated.
Outside the main gate of the prison is a Visitor Centre for those coming to see prisoners. Inside Lowdham Grange itself is a Visits Hall where prisoners can meet with visitors. Both locations provide accessibility for disabled visitors. The Visits Hall has limited refreshments available during visitations.
Notable Events in the Prison’s History
Soon after opening in 1998, Lowdham Grange experienced some staffing issues when it came to light that one newly hired prison officer had previously worked as a security guard for the notorious gangster Reggie Kray. That officer subsequently resigned.
In 2004, a National Audit Office report praised Lowdham Grange as one of seven facilities providing exceptional value. However, a surprise inspection in 2004 by Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons found concerns with prisoners not having enough structured activity as well as low staffing levels, though overall management was good.
Additional incidents in recent years include a prisoner escape attempt by hiding in a chef hat shipment in 2006 and allegations of serious assault by officers against inmates. In 2008, an expansion project was announced to increase capacity by 260 cells.
Recent Concerns and Inspection Findings
More recently, some significant concerns have been raised about conditions at Lowdham Grange. A 2015 inspection found that violence against both prisoners and staff had increased substantially since 2011. Use of force by officers was also deemed disproportionately high.
Self-harm and mental health issues have risen sharply, including long stints in segregation for the mentally ill. Prisoners also lack confidence in the complaints system. Short staffing has contributed to challenges in proper management of the inmate population.
Role as a Training Prison
As a Category B training prison, Lowdham Grange has a particular focus on rehabilitation and providing purposeful activity to prisoners through education, training, and work opportunities. However, oversight and consistent, high-quality management appear to be ongoing issues impacting the prison’s operations and conditions.
Future Operator and Outlook
In 2022, Sodexo Justice Services was awarded the contract to take over management of Lowdham Grange from February 2023 onward following a competitive bidding process. The transition to this new operator offers opportunity for reforms, but will require close monitoring.
In conclusion, HMP Lowdham Grange provides an example of both the promises and pitfalls of private prisons. Opened in 1998, Lowdham Grange has faced fluctuating performance and varying oversight over its history. Challenges with violence, mental health, and staffing point to a need for stronger governance. Its future under a new operator provides hope for improvement. But a training prison focused on rehabilitation requires a safe, reformative environment and consistent high standards, which must remain the priority going forward.
What is the security categorization of HMP Lowdham Grange?
Lowdham Grange is categorized as a Category B prison, which houses prisoners who do not need maximum security but for whom escape needs to be made very difficult.
What opportunities are provided to prisoners at Lowdham Grange?
Prisoners can take part in educational courses and vocational training focused on skills like plumbing, construction, and industrial cleaning that provide qualifications. Workshops are also available.
What were some of the concerns found during inspections?
Inspections have identified issues including high levels of violence, disproportionate use of force by officers, understaffing, and prisoners’ lack of confidence in the complaints system.
Who takes over management of Lowdham Grange in 2023?
In 2023, management of Lowdham Grange will be taken over by Sodexo Justice Services following competitive bidding for the contract.
What is the purpose of Lowdham Grange as a training prison?
Its purpose as a training prison is to focus on rehabilitation through education, training, and purposeful work activities that provide skills to prisoners.