HM Prison Rochester
HMP Rochester has a long and fascinating history dating back to the 19th century. Originally founded in 1874 as Borstal Prison, it was one of the first detention centers focused on reforming young offenders. Borstal Prison pioneered a new approach of strict discipline, education and training rather than pure punishment. The “Borstal system” was soon copied across the UK and British Empire.
Conversion to youth custody center
Borstal Prison operated for over a century before being converted into a youth custody center called Rochester in 1983. This marked a shift towards managing young offenders in a more rehabilitative environment. Education, skills training and addressing behavioral issues became the focus rather than punishment.
Changes in the late 20th century
Further changes came to Rochester Prison in the late 1980s and 1990s. In 1988 it began holding adult male inmates and operating as a remand center for local courts. Later it also housed immigration detainees and a resettlement unit preparing prisoners for release. For a time it was a mixed prison holding youths and adults.
Criticisms and improvements in the 2000s
In the 2000s HMP Rochester focused solely on holding sentenced young male offenders. But it faced criticism for failing to provide enough constructive activities for prisoners. Inspectors called for improvements in work and education programs and measures to combat bullying. This led to efforts to expand facilities and opportunities for inmates.
Life at HMP Rochester Today
Prisoner population and accommodation
Today HMP Rochester holds around 700 convicted adult and young male offenders. They are housed in both 19th century cell blocks and more modern cell wings. Accommodation ranges from single to double cells, some with showers. There is also an enhanced wing for well-behaved prisoners.
Facilities and programs for prisoners
Prisoners have access to educational courses, skills training workshops, work placements and offending behavior programs. There are also drug rehabilitation services to help tackle addiction. Sports and gym facilities provide recreational activities. The prison has chaplaincy services and faith-based classes.
Daily life and regime
A typical day involves scheduled activities such as classes, work duties, meals and exercise times. Some prisoners with jobs may work a regular daytime shift. Evenings and weekends include recreation time and association periods. Prisoners aim to demonstrate good behavior and responsibility to earn privileges.
Security and control
As a Category C prison, HMP Rochester has lower security than maximum security jails but still aims to control prisoners and prevent disturbances. Security features include perimeter fencing, CCTV, patrols and cell searches. The prison works to build positive relations between staff and inmates.
Controversies and Issues at HMP Rochester
With expansion in the 2000s, HMP Rochester faced difficulties with overcrowding and providing sufficient activities. Extra accommodation helped increase capacity but also put pressure on services. Ensuring adequate supervision and purposeful occupation of prisoners’ time remains an ongoing challenge.
Rehabilitation and education concerns
Despite improvements, rehabilitation programs have sometimes struggled with limited funding and resources. Providing quality education and skills training to tackle reoffending is still an area needing attention. Not all inmates can access courses tailored to their needs.
Drug abuse and violence
Illicit drugs and associated violence have plagued the prison system. HMP Rochester strives to interdict drugs and offer treatment programs. But as a busy local jail, it continues handling drugs-related issues. Tackling bullying and gang activity also remains a priority.
The Future of HMP Rochester
Plans for expansion and improvements
Further redevelopment plans aim to modernize HMP Rochester and increase capacity. More accommodation, facilities and workshops are proposed to hold more inmates securely while expanding opportunities available to them.
Implementing rehabilitation programs
Building on existing courses, the prison plans to widen the range of targeted rehabilitation programs. These aim to identify and address specific risks and needs, from drug addiction to anger management. More programs to prevent reoffending will be rolled out.
Focus on education and skills training
Education and vocational skills development will be an increasing focus. The prison aims to partner with outside training providers, employers and industry bodies. This will enable prisoners to gain meaningful qualifications and experience that lead to employment after release.
Preparing prisoners for release
Inmates will undertake pre-release courses and get help with finding housing, work and accessing support services. Rochester aims to have specialist staff coordinating prisoners’ transition back into the community and liaising with probation officers.
HMP Rochester has transformed over 150 years from a pioneering youth prison to a modern facility for convicted adults and young offenders. Despite ongoing challenges it continues striving to securely detain inmates while providing constructive regimes that address risks and prepare prisoners for a crime-free future after release. Expanding rehabilitation services and partnerships with outside organizations will be key to its future evolution.
What type of prisoners are held at HMP Rochester today?
HMP Rochester now holds sentenced adult male prisoners and young male offenders up to age 21.
What facilities are available to inmates?
Inmates have access to educational courses, skills workshops, work placements, gym and sports facilities, drug rehabilitation programs and faith-based classes.
How does the prison aim to tackle issues like drugs and bullying?
Strategies include searching for contraband, CCTV monitoring, building positive staff-inmate relations and anti-bullying initiatives. Drug rehabilitation services are also offered.
What plans are proposed for HMP Rochester’s future?
Major goals are expanding capacity, improving facilities, rolling out more targeted rehabilitation programs, boosting education and skills training, and better pre-release preparation for prisoners.
How can the prison effectively prepare prisoners for release?
Pre-release courses, assistance with finding housing/jobs, partnerships with community groups, and coordination between prison staff and probation officers can help prisoners transition successfully.