hm prison stafford

HM Prison Stafford

HM Prison Stafford first opened in 1793 as the Staffordshire County Gaol under the Stafford Gaol Act 1787. The original buildings were fairly small and basic, built to hold local prisoners and debtors. However, major building works in the 19th century led to significant expansion of the site.

Expansion in the 19th Century

In the 1800s, a major construction program enlarged HM Prison Stafford considerably. Additional cell blocks, workshops, exercise yards and other facilities were added to handle the growing prisoner population. By the mid-19th century, it was substantially larger than the original 1793 buildings.

Notable Early Prisoners and Executions

Some famous names were held in Stafford Gaol in the early days. In 1812, notorious forger William Booth was hanged outside the prison walls. George Smith, who became a public executioner, served time there for theft. Other executions also took place, including that of Dr William Palmer, a physician hanged for murder in 1866.

Use as POW Camp in 1916

During World War 1, HM Prison Stafford held Irish prisoners captured after the 1916 Easter Rising. These prisoners included key figures like Michael Collins. However, later in 1916 Stafford closed and remained unused for over 20 years.

See also  HM Prison Coldingley

Closure and Reopening in World War 2

After closing in 1916, HM Prison Stafford lay empty until 1939, when it reopened at the start of World War Two. It returned to use as a civilian prison for the duration of the war and beyond.

Facilities and Operations

Security Classification and Layout

Today, HM Prison Stafford is a Category C men’s facility. This means it houses prisoners who cannot be trusted in open conditions but who are unlikely to try to escape. The prison mostly consists of double occupancy cells, with one wing (G Wing) having single cells.

Cell Blocks and Wings

In addition to cells, the prison has a series of wings and cell blocks with names like A, B and C Wing. Different wings may house specific categories of prisoner, such as vulnerable inmates or those undergoing drug rehabilitation. Exercise yards and workshops are attached to most wings.

Workshops and Exercise Areas

There are various workshop facilities where prisoners can learn trades like carpentry, textiles and engineering. HM Prison Stafford also has outdoor areas for exercise, sports and recreation to keep prisoners active. However, limited space means exercise provision is not ideal.

Controversies and Issues

Drug Smuggling and Security Concerns

Being an older prison, Stafford has had issues with smuggling contraband over its walls. In the 1990s, prisoners used ingenious methods to sneak drugs in attached to paper planes and lines. This led to security improvements like fence sensors and CCTV.

Staffing Instability and Leadership Changes

The Prison Reform Trust has raised concerns about frequent turnover of governors at HM Prison Stafford. High rates of staff sickness have also impacted the prison’s ability to operate smoothly and consistently.

See also  Old Tolbooth, Edinburgh

Overcrowding and Poor Conditions

With an original design capacity of a few hundred, HM Prison Stafford has at times held over 700 inmates. This overcrowding exacerbates poor conditions such as limited exercise facilities. Attempts have been made to improve the situation.

The Prison Today

Focus on Sex Offenders

As of 2014, HM Prison Stafford serves as a specific sex offender jail. This means only convicted sex criminals are housed there. The change came after concerns about concentrating different prisoner types together.

Ongoing Rehabilitation and Training Programs

Like all prisons, HM Prison Stafford runs rehabilitation courses to address issues like drug and alcohol addiction. It also facilitates training and education for inmates, with workshops teaching practical skills.

Remaining Concerns and Monitoring

While improvements have been made, watchdog groups continue to monitor issues in the prison like violence and inadequate facilities. Maintaining an ageing prison remains an ongoing challenge for managers.

Notable Inmates Over the Years

  • William Booth – Forger, executed in 1812
  • George Smith – Executioner who served time for theft
  • William Palmer – Doctor and murderer, executed in 1866
  • Michael Collins – Irish revolutionary held in 1916
  • Ashley Blake – TV presenter jailed for child abuse
  • Rolf Harris – Celebrity inmate convicted of sex crimes

In conclusion, HM Prison Stafford has a long and often troubled history within the British prison system dating back over 200 years. While recent reforms have created a dedicated sex offender prison, significant challenges around security, facilities and rehabilitation remain. Continued modernisation balanced with preservation of its historic fabric will be key to the prison’s future.

See also  HM Prison Maidstone


Q: When was HM Prison Stafford first constructed?

A: It opened in 1793 as Staffordshire County Gaol under the Stafford Gaol Act 1787.

Q: What famous Irish revolutionary was held there in 1916?

A: Michael Collins was imprisoned in HM Prison Stafford along with other Irish rebels after the Easter Rising.

Q: How many inmates can the prison accommodate today?

A: Its operational capacity is around 740 prisoners, though it has held over 700 at times leading to overcrowding issues.

Q: What security challenges has the prison faced?

A: Drug smuggling was a major issue in the 1990s, with packages thrown over walls. New security measures were implemented.

Q: What is the main type of prisoner held there today?

A: As of 2014, HM Prison Stafford houses only convicted sex offenders as a specialist prison for this category.

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