HM Prison Wakefield
HMP Wakefield is a high-security men’s prison located in Wakefield, West Yorkshire. With a history dating back to 1594, Wakefield is the oldest of the maximum-security “dispersal prisons” in England and Wales. Nicknamed the “Monster Mansion”, HMP Wakefield houses some of the most dangerous and notorious criminals in the UK including murderers, sex offenders and prisoners serving life sentences. With a capacity for around 750 inmates, Wakefield is known for its harsh conditions and bleak accommodation but also provides opportunities for rehabilitation.
History of the Prison
Wakefield Prison was originally built as a house of correction in 1594 during the Elizabethan era. The current imposing Victorian-era prison buildings were constructed in the 19th century.
Wakefield served as a military jail for conscientious objectors and wartime detainees during World Wars I and II. It has also housed Provisional IRA prisoners at times over the past century when direct rule from London was imposed over Northern Ireland.
Prison Facilities and Operations
Security Classification and Population
HMP Wakefield is a Category A high-security adult male prison. It houses around 600 of the most dangerous prisoners in the UK ranging from notorious murderers like Dr Harold Shipman to notorious pedophiles like Sidney Cooke. Many prisoners are serving life sentences.
Prison Buildings and Accommodation
The inmates are housed in single-occupancy cells with integral sanitation facilities. Each cell is spartan containing just basic furniture like a bed, chair and shelves.
The cell blocks have shared kitchen facilities where inmates can prepare their own meals. There are also workshops, a gym, an education department, multi-faith chaplaincy and a prison shop.
Incentives and Privileges Scheme
Wakefield operates the standard Incentives and Earned Privileges (IEP) scheme where well-behaved prisoners can earn additional privileges like in-cell televisions. Those with enhanced status can access better living conditions.
Work and Education Opportunities
Prisoners are offered opportunities to learn new skills via industrial work programs and education courses. These include training in areas like industrial cleaning and Braille transcription. External providers like The Manchester College offer education up to Open University degree level to assist rehabilitation.
Notorious and High-Profile Inmates
HMP Wakefield currently houses some of Britain’s most notorious prisoners:
- Child killers like Mick Philpott, Damien Bendall and Mark Bridger
- Neo-Nazi extremist Jack Renshaw
- Serial killers like Robert Maudsley
- Serial rapist Reynhard Sinaga
- Police killers like Kamel Bourgass
The prison was previously home to infamous criminals like:
-Serial killer doctor Harold Shipman who committed suicide in his cell in 2004 -Child murderers Ian Huntley, Robert Black and Roy Whiting -Serial killers Colin Ireland and Michael Sams
Controversies and Criticisms
Staff Treatment of Prisoners
There have been accusations of staff disrespecting and mistreating the prisoners over the years. A 2004 inspection report criticized the prison as being “over-controlled”.
Delays Transferring Mentally Ill Prisoners
Mentally ill inmates have faced delays being transferred to secure psychiatric facilities, despite the prison being unable to manage their conditions appropriately.
Holding Prisoners in Inappropriate Conditions
Due to delays transferring mentally ill prisoners, some are held in inappropriate conditions that worsen their illnesses, contrary to guidelines.
Other Notable Events in the Prison’s History
Housing Conscientious Objectors and Wartime Detainees
During World Wars I and II, Wakefield Prison housed conscientious objectors who refused military service. It was also used as a detention center for political prisoners such as wartime detainees under Defence Regulation 18B.
As a high-security prison, HMP Wakefield housed Provisional IRA members at times when direct rule from London was imposed on Northern Ireland, from the 1920s to the 1950s.
HMP Wakefield is notorious as one of the toughest, bleakest prisons in the UK for housing the country’s most disturbed and dangerous criminals. However, its long history has also seen it serve as an important political prison.
While rehabilitation opportunities are offered today via education and skills training, the prison continues to face criticisms over inmate treatment and its housing of the mentally ill. But Wakefield remains a critical component of the British high-security prison network for incarcerating infamous and highly dangerous offenders.
What type of criminals are housed at HMP Wakefield?
Wakefield houses around 600 of the UK’s most dangerous prisoners including notorious murderers, serial killers, pedophiles, rapists and prisoners serving life sentences.
How old is HMP Wakefield?
HMP Wakefield dates back to 1594, making it the oldest dispersal prison still operating in England and Wales. The current Victorian buildings were constructed in the 19th century.
What facilities does the prison offer?
As well as single-occupancy cells, HMP Wakefield offers shared kitchens, workshops, a gym, education department, chaplaincy, and a prison shop. There are also rehabilitation opportunities via work programs and education courses.
Who was the most infamous prisoner held there?
One of Wakefield’s most infamous inmates was the serial killer GP Harold Shipman who murdered over 200 patients. Shipman committed suicide in his cell in January 2004.
What is the prison best known for?
HMP Wakefield is best known for housing some of Britain’s most notorious and dangerous prisoners including serial killers, mass murderers, and infamous sex offenders. It has a reputation as one of the toughest prisons in the UK.