HMP Wakefield is in West Yorkshire and is the largest maximum security in the United Kingdom. It was built in 1594 as a house of correction and has a long and colourful history.
Wakefield has a capacity of 751 and of that around 100 are category A prisoners. There are also around 10-12 high-risk prisoners in a close Supervision Centre (CSC) unit within the prisons for the most dangerous and difficult to manage prisoners. The CSC is a small therapeutic centre aiming to provide a supportive, safe, structured and consistent environment for some of the most challenging offenders. These CSC units are surprisingly well run and offer prisoners good outcomes according to a 2018 report in. The first CSC in the UK was built in Wakefield
Wakefield takes in primarily sex offenders and those with over five years to serve.
HMP Wakefield was designated a Dispersal prison in 1966 and is the oldest of the Dispersal prisons still operating across England and Wales. In the First World War Wakefield was used as a Home Office work camp and by 1916 also held conscientious objectors prisoner.
After the war HMP Wakefield was used to house IRA prisoners due to its high security features. In 1976 Frank Stagg died in the prison, he had been part of one of the notorious hunger strikes by the provisional IRA.
The Mulberry Bush
One interesting thing about HMP Wakefield is that apparently there was a mulberry bush is the exercise yard, the women prisoners used to dance around it to exercise. This has been linked to the nursery rhyme, ‘Here we go round the Mulberry Bush’. The tree was removed in May 2019 as it died. A cutting from it was taken by a retired prison officer and will be used in an attempt to grow the tree again.
The last inspection at Wakefield was in 2018, the prison was found to be good on the whole. The major area of weakness was around prisoners with severe mental health issues. However, Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons said that this was not necessarily a failing of Wakefield but more of the failing of the prison system as a whole. Clarke issued recommendation to the Prisons’ Minister in the hope that he can use his influence to initiate effective cross-departmental action to address the problem.
The issue is the lack of speed in which prisoners with severe mental health problems, under the Mental Health Act are transferred to secure accommodation. Clarke said the delays are totally unacceptable and means that many prisoners are held in non therapeutic conditions which exacerbate their condition.
Hall of Notoriety: 5 of the worst that have been held at Wakefield
Huntley was sentenced to life for the murder of school girl friends Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, he was given two life sentences and will serve 40 years before he is released. He served the first part of his sentence in Wakefield before being transferred to Frankland Prison in 2008.
Harold Shipman is believed ot be responsible for over 218 deaths. He was convicted of 15 murders in 2000 and sentenced to life. However in 2004 he hung himself to death in his prison cell at Wakefield.
Bronson has been called Britain’s most violent prisoner on more then one occasion. He has attacked both officers, including a warden and other inmates. He now calls himself Charles Salvador and donates his art works to charity……
Convicted killer of Amelie Delagrange, Marsha McDonnell, Milly Dowler and the attempted murder of Kate Sheedy. He will never be released from prison. In 2015, he reportedly confessed to more crimes from his Wakefield cell, which police investigated but found no evidence of.
Ian Watkins, the Lost prophet’s singer and sexual predator was sentenced to 35 years in 2013 for a string of child sex offences, including the attempted rape of a baby. He’s now been moved from Wakefield. Whilst there, he made friends with child killer Mick Philpott.