HM Prison Woodhill
HM Prison Wymott is a Category C men’s prison located in Ulnes Walton in Lancashire, England. With a capacity for over 1,100 prisoners, it is one of the larger prisons in the country. Wymott has a varied history spanning several decades and has undergone many changes in its role and structure during that time.
Initially opening in 1979 as a dispersal prison, Wymott later re-rolled in the 1990s to also function as a training prison. It holds both sentenced and unsentenced adult male prisoners from courts across the North West. Read on to learn more about the history of HM Prison Wymott, its facilities and regime, notable incidents, inspection findings, community links, and its ongoing redevelopment plans.
History of HM Prison Wymott
Opening and Early Years
HM Prison Wymott first opened in 1979 as a dispersal prison for adult men. The site was converted from an old Royal Ordnance Factory. Initial accommodations consisted of several house units surrounded by fences.
In its early years, Wymott took prisoners from across the North West region. As a dispersal prison, it held inmates that needed to be dispersed from other overcrowded jails. The prison population reached around 600 in these initial years.
Expansion in 1990s
By the early 1990s, Wymott had expanded to hold around 960 prisoners. Additional accommodation units were constructed onsite consisting of large rectangular cell blocks.
In 1994, Wymott underwent further expansion and rebranded itself as a training prison. The prison population grew to over 1,100 inmates. Education, skills training and workshops became a key focus.
More recently in the 2000s and 2010s, Wymott has continued to serve as a training and resettlement prison. Education, vocational courses, life skills and rehabilitation programs remain central to the regime.
An area of the prison has also been designated for vulnerable prisoners and a specialist personality disorder unit opened in recent years. The prison population has stabilized at just over 1,100.
Facilities and Regime
HM Prison Wymott provides various facilities and a structured daily regime for inmates.
Prisoner accommodations at Wymott consists of a mix of single and double cells, located in large rectangular units. Each cell contains a toilet, sink, cabinet storage and television. Some enhanced cells have additional amenities.
Separate units house vulnerable prisoners and those with special needs. The prison has an overall Certified Normal Accommodation of 1094 prisoners.
Education and Work Opportunities
As a training prison, Wymott offers inmates a range of education courses, skills training and job opportunities. These include classes, workshops and vocational training in areas like industrial cleaning, plumbing, welding, carpentry, literacy, IT, maths, art and food safety.
Prisoners can work in the kitchens, gardens, waste management, textiles shop and other facilities. Peer mentor roles are also available.
Healthcare and Mental Health Services
Healthcare facilities at the prison include an inpatient unit, pharmacy and access to doctors, nurses, dentists and other medical professionals. Mental health services are also available from a team of psychiatrists and mental health nurses. Specialist drug and alcohol support is also provided.
Wymott delivers a range of rehabilitation services aimed at reducing reoffending. These cover areas like victim awareness, managing emotions, relationship and family support, employability skills, housing advice and thinking skills. Some group sessions and one-to-one work is facilitated by trained prisoner peers.
Security and Notable Incidents
As a Category C prison, Wymott has a lower security classification than high risk Category A jails, but still aims to maintain safety, control and order.
Security Category and Classification
Wymott is classified as a Category C prison. This means it houses prisoners who cannot be trusted in open prisons but who are considered unlikely to make a determined escape attempt.
As a training prison, Wymott also holds a proportion of Category D/open prison-eligible inmates. The prison has a dedicated search team, perimeter fencing, CCTV and regular patrols to maintain security.
Gang Violence and Drug Issues
HM Prison Wymott has dealt with issues around gang violence and contraband drugs over the years. There have been incidents of prisoners assaulting other inmates due to gang rivalries and debts. The trade in illicit substances like Spice has also posed challenges.
Escapes and Rooftop Protests
There have been a small number of escapes from Wymott during its history, including a 2006 incident where two prisoners absconded from an outside working party. More commonly, some inmates have staged rooftop protests as a result of grievances. However, the prison is considered to have good levels of control and security overall.
Deaths in Custody
Wymott has seen a number of self-inflicted deaths and other fatalities in custody over the past decade. In 2017, the prison recorded one of the country’s highest numbers of self-inflicted deaths, prompting scrutiny from watchdogs. Efforts have been made to improve risk management.
HM Prison Wymott is regularly inspected by official prison watchdogs. Some positive aspects have been noted, but the inspections have also highlighted ongoing issues.
Inspectors have commended prisoner-staff relationships at Wymott and the good availability of purposeful activity for inmates to engage in. Healthcare and education provisions have been well-rated in past reports.
However, persistent staff shortages have impacted Wymott’s ability to reliably deliver its regime. Living conditions in parts of the prison have been criticized. Safety outcomes for vulnerable prisoners have been inconsistent. More investment is still needed in key areas.
Resettlement and Community Links
As part of its rehabilitative focus, Wymott prison offers inmates resettlement services and community links.
Resettlement support begins at an early stage of an offender’s sentence. Prisoners can access support with housing, employment, finances, addiction issues, family relationships and other needs. The goal is to smooth the transition back into society.
Some prisoners have opportunities to give back to nearby communities through supervised volunteer projects. These community service initiatives have included litter picks, gardening and maintenance work.
Wymott hosts regular family visit days where prisoners’ loved ones can come and spend extended time together in a more natural setting. This allows important family bonds to be maintained during incarceration.
Notable Former Inmates
Over its long history, Wymott has held a number of notorious and high profile criminals.
Category A Prisoners
Although mainly a Category C prison, Wymott has housed small numbers of high-risk Category A prisoners at certain times. These have included infamous offenders like child killer Sidney Cooke.
High Profile Criminals
Other well-known figures jailed at Wymott have included radical preacher Anjem Choudary, serial killer doctor Harold Shipman, and radicals involved in 1960s spy scandals. The prison has a long legacy of housing prominent convicts.
Current Role and Statistics
Today, HM Prison Wymott continues to fulfill an important role in the UK justice system. Some key facts about the makeup of its current prisoner population and operations are:
- Around 1180 prisoners currently housed
- All adult males aged 21 and over
- Mix of sentenced and unsentenced inmates
- Serves courts across North West England region
- Holds prisoners from Merseyside, Manchester, Lancashire etc.
Sentenced vs. Unsentenced
- Approximately 60% sentenced, 40% on remand or awaiting trial or sentencing.
Major redevelopment works are planned at HM Prison Wymott over the coming years to upgrade facilities.
Investment and Upgrades
- £140 million budgeted for modernization program
- Will fund full refurbishment of outdated custodial units and infrastructure
- New houseblock to increase prisoner capacity
- Prisoner numbers set to expand by 300
- Accommodating growing prison population in North West
- Providing additional space for rehabilitation services
HM Prison Wymott has a varied history spanning over 40 years in operation. It has grown from a small dispersal jail to a major training and rehabilitation prison today holding over 1,100 inmates.
While Wymott has faced challenges around issues like safety, drugs, gang violence and aging infrastructure, major redevelopment plans are now underway. With substantial investment, upgraded facilities will allow Wymott to continue its important role in the North West for decades to come. The prison aims to provide secure, constructive custody and help reduce reoffending.
Q: When was HM Prison Wymott built?
A: Wymott Prison first opened in 1979 after being converted from a former Royal Ordnance Factory site. The prison is now over 40 years old.
Q: What type of prisoners are housed at Wymott?
A: Wymott holds adult male prisoners aged 21 and over, both those sentenced and unsentenced. It has a mix of Category C prisoners and some open-prison eligible inmates.
Q: What are the main problems Wymott Prison has faced?
A: Key issues have included staffing shortages impacting the regime, aging infrastructure, violence/drugs due to gangs, and concerns over safety and conditions for vulnerable prisoners.
Q: What facilities are available for prisoners at Wymott?
A: Facilities include educational classes, vocational training workshops, work opportunities, healthcare, mental health support, a gym, sports pitches and resettlement services.
Q: How is Wymott Prison changing in the future?
A: A major £140 million redevelopment program is underway. This will fund full modernization of facilities, expanded capacity and enhanced rehabilitation services.