HM Prison The Mount
Tucked away in the village of Bovingdon in Hertfordshire, England, lies a controversial Category C men’s prison – HM Prison The Mount. With a history dating back to 1987, The Mount has faced concerns over safety, drugs, staffing shortages, and riots over the years. However, recent inspection reports show that The Mount may be starting to turn a corner.
History of the Prison
HM Prison The Mount was originally designed as a Category C Training prison on the former site of the Bovingdon RAF station. The location on the outskirts of the small village of Bovingdon was chosen for its relative isolation.
Opening and Use as Young Offender Institution
When The Mount first opened in 1987, it was not used as a Category C adult prison as intended. Instead, it housed male young offenders aged 18 to 21 years old. This was seen as an opportunity to keep the vulnerable young inmates separated from the general population.
Escapes and Violence in Early Days
However, The Mount soon saw violence and disorder from its youthful residents. In November 1994, two young inmates escaped by violently attacking an instructor and tying him up. The instructor suffered a fractured skull in the brazen breakout.
Concerns Over Safety and Drug Use
By 2005, significant concerns were being raised about safety and drug use at The Mount. A scathing inspection report condemned conditions at the prison, stating that drugs were rampant and threatening security.
2005 Inspection Report Findings
The 2005 report found 25% of prisoners had been bullied, half felt unsafe, and 44% said obtaining drugs was easy. The environment fueled ethnic tensions and unclean conditions according to inspectors.
Utilizing Prison Labor
In 2007, The Mount partnered with Hertfordshire Highways to utilize prison labor for repairing damaged road signs. Inmates learning metalwork and welding skills were tasked with fixing broken highway signs under this innovative contract.
Road Sign Repair Contract
The road sign repair contract provided real-world job training for inmates near release while benefiting the local community. Both The Mount and Hertfordshire Highways praised the initiative.
Expansion of Prison Capacity
Due to increasing prison populations, The Mount needed to expand. In 2013, the Ministry of Justice approved the addition of a new housing block inside the prison walls. This increased The Mount’s maximum capacity.
Additional Housing Block Added
The additional accommodation block provided space for over 100 more inmates at The Mount. However, some criticized the expansion citing existing problems at the Victorian-era prison.
Continuing Issues and Disturbances
Despite expansion, The Mount continued to grapple with staffing shortages and drug issues, which boiled over into violence. In 2015, a prisoner was severely stabbed and nearly died from blood loss.
Severely understaffed wings meant limited supervision for prisoners. Experienced officers left for better pay, leaving vacancies The Mount struggled to fill. Prisoner activities were restricted due to the staff crisis.
Increasing Drug Problem and Health Effects
Illegal drug use, particularly new synthetic substances like Spice, surged out of control. In 2016, 70 emergency health calls were attributed to ingestion of contraband substances causing serious side effects.
Loss of Control and Riots in Wings
In July 2017, specialized riot personnel had to be deployed when inmates took control of two entire wings. Prison authorities lost control of the facility. Another riot broke out the next day in Nash wing.
The Prison Today
Currently, The Mount operates as a Category C prison with six residential wings for adult males over age 21. Rehabilitation and skills training are a focus.
Category and Capacity
As of August 2015, HM Prison The Mount had an operational capacity of 1,028 prisoners. The expansion has allowed the prison to house more inmates.
Rehabilitation and Training Programs
Prisoners can utilize workshops, education courses, training programs, gardens and farms. These provide real-world skills to better prepare for release.
Recent Inspections and Plans for Improvement
After years of concerns, recent inspections show HM Prison The Mount may be turning a corner and improving conditions. Investments have been made to rehabilitate and stabilize the prison.
2018 HMPPS Report Findings
An HMPPS 2018 report acknowledged The Mount had a difficult period, but found robust improvement plans were being implemented. This includes increased staffing, violence reduction, more inmate activities, and better care for diverse prisoners.
HM Prison The Mount has faced many challenges over its 30-plus year history, including safety concerns, staffing issues, drugs, and riots. However, expanded capacity, new programs and training, and a renewed focus on rehabilitation signal hope that The Mount may be leaving its tumultuous past behind. With strong oversight and proper funding, England’s troubled Category C prison can potentially become a positive example.
What type of prison is HM Prison The Mount?
HM Prison The Mount is a Category C men’s prison located in Bovingdon, Hertfordshire, England.
What was HM Prison The Mount originally built for?
It was originally designed to be a Category C Training prison when it opened in 1987. However, it initially housed young male offenders instead.
What problems has the prison faced over the years?
The Mount has had issues with drugs, lack of safety, staffing shortages, loss of control of inmates, riots, and poor conditions according to various inspection reports.
How has HM Prison The Mount expanded?
In 2013, a new housing block was constructed, increasing capacity by over 100 inmates. Prior to that, it was an older, smaller facility.
What is being done to improve conditions at The Mount now?
Recent reports show increased staffing, better violence reduction, more prisoner activities, and improved rehabilitation programs are being implemented to stabilize and improve the prison.