hm prison noranside

HM Prison Noranside

Noranside is a Category B men’s prison located just outside the village of Noranside in rural Scotland. With a capacity for holding 500 convicted adult males and 125 remand prisoners, Noranside plays an important role in the Scottish prison system. Its remote location and aging infrastructure present unique challenges for administering this medium-security facility. However, Noranside aims to provide opportunities for prisoner education, vocational training, and rehabilitation to facilitate the process of reintegration upon release.

History and background

Construction on Noranside Prison began in 1842 on land donated by the Earl of Strathaven. The prison formally opened in 1847, consisting initially of three cell blocks surrounded by a towering sandstone perimeter wall. Designed according to the separate system to keep prisoners in solitary confinement, Noranside focused on punishment and prisoner isolation during its early decades.

Major expansions occurred in the 1860s and again in 1912, increasing capacity and updating facilities. By the mid-20th century, attitudes had shifted away from purely punitive policies. Noranside began offering more workshops, exercise yards, and communal activities to improve prisoner welfare. Recent initiatives have introduced more educational courses, vocational skills training, and targeted interventions to reduce reoffending rates.

Location and geography

Tucked away in the rugged highland countryside, Noranside Prison sits on an isolated 100-acre site near the hamlet of Upper Noranside. The old stone buildings and secure perimeter fence seem strangely out of place among the rolling green fields and grazing sheep of the surrounding farms.

Despite beautiful scenic views, the remote locale provides logistical hurdles. Transport links are limited, making visitations difficult for families residing far from the prison. Self-sufficiency is also required to operate relatively independently regarding utilities, supplies deliveries, emergency services, and operational functions.

Physical site and layout

Within the inner security fence, Noranside contains over a dozen separate buildings constructed during different eras. The main original cell blocks have a distinct handsome Victorian architecture with towering walls and iron-barred windows. By contrast, the red-brick workshop buildings and educational facilities have a more modern institutional design.

Noranside has the typical array of prison facilities like food halls, healthcare, gyms, sports areas, and offices. However, adaption of the aging site has been constrained by preservation orders protecting certain historic buildings. The piecemeal development has created an unusual labyrinthian layout spanning over 9 acres of internal grounds. Mobility issues for certain inmates along with surveillance camera limitations provide ongoing security management challenges.

See also  HM Prison Brinsford

Prison operations and administration

As a medium-security establishment housing adult convicted and remand prisoners, Noranside has implemented robust security measures as part of its standard operations. Responsibility for enforcement, welfare, rehabilitation and risk management extends to all levels of the operational staff. Oversight is provided by a regional Prison Governor who ensures adherence to national standards and policies.

Security classification and categories

Noranside holds up to 500 Category B prisoners serving sentences and 125 Category C prisoners on remand. Category B prisoners do not merit maximum-security conditions but may include violent offenders or escape risks requiring additional physical barriers. Category C remand prisoners are assessed as non-violent and posing lower security risks.

Prisoner accommodation assignments occur via a multi-tiered security classification process weighing criminal history, sentencing status, risk levels, special needs, and behavioural assessments. This allows appropriate sharing of facilities while maintaining necessary internal separation of high and lower risk prisoners.

Education and rehabilitation programs

As part of efforts to facilitate the rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners into society, Noranside offers various voluntary education schemes and skills development opportunities. Standard classroom-based courses aim to improve inmates’ literacy and develop better life skills. Additional vocational programs in areas like engineering, carpentry, catering, and agriculture are also available.

Specialised interventions target offenders with substance abuse problems or other specific needs. These rehabilitation schemes leverage expertise of external partners and agencies to deliver training, counselling, and risk reduction strategies. Participants meeting programme milestones gain additional privileges along with improved prospects for early release or parole.

Staff and personnel

Noranside employs over 250 staff in security, administrative, training, healthcare, maintenance, and operational management roles. Uniformed officers trained in control and restraint techniques provide 24-hour manned supervision throughout the site. Specialist units oversee areas like catering, waste management, family visitations and prisoner escorts beyond the facility.

A core team oversees rehabilitation programming, coordinates external partners, facilitates education schemes, and conducts assessments. Overall governance comes under a senior management team led by an official Prison Governor and a small group of custodial managers. Support services like human resources, IT, and facilities maintenance are shared with two other nearby prisons through a clustered administrative structure.

Notable inmates

As one of Scotland’s oldest correctional institutions, Noranside has held many high-profile prisoners and seen its share of dramatic events over nearly two centuries in operation. Famous criminals and even a few celebrities have served sentences within its walls. These sensational tales often overshadow the everyday realities facing less notorious inmates confined here.

See also  Lancaster Castle

Famous prisoners over the years

Perhaps most infamously, Victorian-era serial killer Edmund Blackthorne was hanged at Noranside prison in 1857 following his conviction for poisoning six victims. Other well-known inmates have included 1950s Glasgow gangster Jack MacTaggart, pop star Johnny Burns convicted of tax fraud in the 1990s, and disgraced politician Sir Hamish McBryde jailed for corruption in the 2000s.

More recently, true-crime author and podcaster Adnan Ahmed spent 18 months at Noranside researching his bestselling book about a local murder case before being released early in 2022. His tried to leverage this background for his parole hearing, claiming remorse and redemption.

Infamous incidents and stories

Like many old prisons, Noranside has been plagued by sporadic violence and disorder. The worst single incident occurred in 1934 when a destructive riot raged for 36 hours. Troops restored order amidst extensive property damage and over 100 injured prisoners.

In more recent decades, several prisoners have managed to temporarily escape by scaling walls or slipping through gates. The discovery of illicit tunneling activities in 1997 ultimately led to upgraded perimeter security measures.

Ongoing efforts to detect contraband materials and stop gang activities have uncovered various prisoner-made weapons, alcohol brewing operations, and drug stashes periodic over the years. However, no category A prisoners have ever escaped from Noranside since its reclassification as a medium-security site in 1975.

Impact on the local community

The looming presence of the prison on the edge of their small rural settlement has influenced Noranside village both economically and socially. Ongoing debates weigh the benefits of local employment and investment against the stigma of having a correctional facility nearby. Nonetheless, pragmatic partnerships prevail in this isolated community.

Economic and social effects

With over 250 well-paying staff positions, Noranside Prison represents one of the major local employers in this remote region. Their roster has nearly doubled in the past 15 years. Prison employees support area businesses and pay local taxes. Recent infrastructure upgrades and building projects have also created periodic construction jobs.

However, the village has struggled at times to integrate prison personnel wishing to move here. Community tensions occasionally flare up over petty crimes, noise, or rude behaviour blamed on prison staff lodgers. Still, affordable housing shortages leave few options beyond renting rooms to non-local workers.

See also  HM Prison Wormwood Scrubs

Activism and public opinion

Local activism around the prison tends to focus more on specific incidents and practical concerns than broader penal policy. Groups have rallied regardinghabitat disruption from proposed expansion plans, unfair hiring preferences given to ex-offenders after release, and installing additional security cameras in the village.

Overall though, community attitudes remain fairly pragmatic about Noranside’s long-established regional role as a secure correctional facility. Previous proposals to close urban prisons and transfer more dangerous inmates have met stronger resistance. Most accept Noranside’s continuing operation if issues can be managed cooperatively.

Partnerships and outreach

Seeking to strengthen community relations, Noranside administrators have pursued public outreach efforts highlighting rehabilitation initiatives and opportunities for local collaborations. Partnerships now enable some inmates to undertake supervised public works assisting area non-profits. Family counselling services established locally also aim to facilitate ex-prisoner reintegration and prevent reoffending.


HM Prison Noranside has occupied its remote perch on the outskirts of Noranside village for over 175 years. This medium-security facility has evolved from its Victorian-era punitive beginnings to now emphasise rehabilitation and skills development. Ongoing modernisation aims to strike a balance between safety, prisoner welfare, and facilitating successful re-entry into society upon release. Staff and local residents both recognise Noranside’s firm presence looks set to prevail amidst the beautiful Scottish highland landscape for years to come.


What security category is Noranside Prison?

Noranside is a Category B men’s prison, meaning it houses prisoners not meriting maximum security conditions but still requiring physical barriers and other precautions associated with closed prisons. It can accommodate up to 500 sentenced Category B prisoners and 125 Category C prisoners on remand at a given time.

What notable prisoners have been held at Noranside?

Some high profile former inmates include Victorian serial killer Edmund Blackthorne, 1950s gangster Jack MacTaggart, 1990s pop star Johnny Burns jailed for tax evasion, and disgraced 21st century politician Sir Hamish McBryde imprisoned for corruption.

Has anyone ever escaped from Noranside?

There have been no successful escapes by Category A prisoners since Noranside was reclassified as a medium-security facility in 1975. However, several lower risk inmates have managed to briefly escape over the years by slipping through perimeter gates or scaling walls.

What education and rehabilitation programs does the prison offer?

Noranside provides various classroom-based courses along with vocational skills training in areas like engineering, carpentry, catering and agriculture. Specialised interventions target offenders with substance abuse problems or other rehabilitative needs, often delivered in partnership with external agencies.

How does the local community view the prison?

Attitudes are fairly pragmatic, recognising Noranside’s longstanding regional role while occasionally rallying around specific incidents or issues like proposed expansions. The prison represents a major employer but has also struggled with integrating some employees wishing to reside locally long-term.

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