HM Prison Prescoed
Nestled in the countryside of Monmouthshire, Wales is HM Prison Prescoed, an open adult male prison that has a long and shifting history. Operating as a satellite facility to the nearby HMP Usk, Prescoed has served many purposes over its 80+ years of operation. From a borstal for youth offenders in its early days to a center focused on reintegrating inmates today, the institution has seen its share of changes and controversies. But throughout, it has maintained a reputation as one of the top performing prisons in the system.
Construction and Early Years as Borstal
The prison first came into being in 1939, constructed through prisoner labor to operate as an open borstal for youth. For over two decades between 1939 and 1964, it functioned in this capacity as a facility for juvenile offenders given borstal sentences.
Conversion to Youth Custody and Young Offender Institution
In 1964, Prescoed was converted into an open borstal, which it remained until 1983. At that time, the nearby HMP Usk was utilized as a detention center. Prescoed then spent the next five years serving as an open youth custody center. By 1988, it underwent another transition into a young offender institution for juveniles and young adults.
Becoming an Adult Open Prison
The most significant shift came in 2000, when Prescoed was re-purposed as an adult open prison. This remains its status today, housing adult male inmates, predominantly those classified as Category D.
Facilities and Operations
Prescoed has the facilities and programming to meet the needs of its inmate population and prepare them for release.
Inmate accommodation is divided between at least 10 purpose-built living units. Some contain single rooms, while the rest are doubles where prisoners have their own individual room keys.
Education and Training
Extensive education and vocational programming is offered on both a full and part-time basis. Prisoners receive interviews during their first week at Prescoed to assess education needs.
Many inmates work on the prison’s sizeable farm, tending to its dairy herd and other livestock. The on-site sawmill also offers work placements where prisoners can develop wood products using lumber from the prison’s 160-acre forest.
The prison also contains facilities like a library, IT suites, gymnasium, and chaplaincy services.
As an open adult facility today, Prescoed houses Category D male inmates who are transferred from other prisons across England and Wales.
Category D Inmates
These prisoners are classified as low-risk and pose minimal threat of escaping. Prescoed’s open design reflects the trust placed in these inmates.
Transfer from Other Prisons
Inmates come to Prescoed from jails like Cardiff, Swansea, Parc, Channings Wood, and HMP Usk. They are transferred to serve the latter portion of their sentences.
Preparing Prisoners for Release
Prescoed aims to help inmates reintegrate into society. Its amenities, education, and work programs give prisoners skills and experience needed for life after release.
Prescoed has weathered its share of controversies, most notably around housing convicted sex offenders.
Housing Sex Offenders
In 2004, the prison began accepting sex offenders transferred from HMP Usk. By 2017, around 10% of inmates were imprisoned for sex crimes.
Absconds by Sex Offenders
There were multiple incidents of convicted sex criminals absconding or escaping from the open facility. This fueled public backlash.
Nearby residents strongly opposed housing sex offenders at Prescoed. Locals feared these prisoners escaping and posing threats to children.
Oversight and Inspections
Regular inspections by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons help evaluate conditions and operations at Prescoed.
Rankings and Performance Evaluations
In 2003, Prescoed was named one of the top 5 prisons in England and Wales – a testament to its standards. As of 2008, it was still highlighted for maintaining good performance and standards.
Findings from Inspections
Inspections have cited strengths like safety, cleanliness, positive staff-inmate relations, and education/training programming. But some have called for improved staff training.
A few well-known figures have spent time imprisoned at Prescoed, including professional footballers Chris Zebroski and Mark Aizlewood.
With its lengthy history dating back to the 1930s, HM Prison Prescoed has reinvented itself many times over from a borstal to an adult prison. Despite facing controversies in recent decades, it has earned praise from inspectors as a largely well-run facility that prepares inmates for their return to society. Going forward, Prescoed will likely continue balancing its open design and rehabilitative mission with the challenges of housing more difficult populations of prisoners.
What type of inmates are housed at Prescoed?
Prescoed houses adult male prisoners classified as Category D – meaning low security risk – who are nearing the end of their sentences.
What work opportunities exist for prisoners?
Inmates can work on the prison’s large farm tending livestock or in the sawmill producing wood products from the on-site forest.
How can prisoners further their education?
There are extensive education offerings from basic literacy to vocational programs, both full and part-time. Inmates are interviewed about education needs.
What controversies has the prison faced?
Housing transferred sex offenders led to public backlash and incidents of these inmates absconding from the open facility.
How is the prison monitored?
Regular inspections by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons evaluate conditions and operations, and have found Prescoed to perform well overall.