High Down Prison History, Facilities and News

HMP High Down is a Category B men’s prison with a capacity of 1,163 inmates, on the outskirts of Banstead, Surrey. Operated by Her Majesty’s Prison Service, it is a ‘local prison’ where people are detained before trial or immediately after conviction from Croydon and Guildford Crown Courts and neighbouring magistrates’ courts. High Down opened in 1992 on the site of Banstead’s former mental hospital. Inspections have highlighted unacceptable levels of violence and drug use at the jail, which remains in a “volatile state” according to its most recent annual report.

Facilities at High Down Prison

Each house-block at HMP High Down accommodates 181 inmates in double and single occupancy cells. All cells have integral sanitation and all landings have showers and phone access. Since 2009, several new facilities have been built including two new residential house-blocks, a gym and an educational centre with 21 classrooms providing vocational training and NVQs. There is a visitor centre with facilities including a baby-changing area and a creche.

High Down in “Volatile State”

The annual report on High Down, published on April 19, 2018 by the jail’s Independent Monitoring Board, said it was in a “volatile state” with widespread drug use and unacceptable levels of violence. There were 264 reported incidents of violence between inmates – 43 more than the previous year, and an “unacceptably high” 79 assaults on staff. Poor cleanliness and hygiene were also identified as concerns, as was the high number of inmates with mental health issues who were not being treated by the jail’s inhouse mental health service.

Inspectors Find High Down “Cause for Concern”

An inspection of High Down in July 2017 found that safety and the jail’s ability to rehabilitate offenders were a cause for concern. In a damning report, inspectors gave the prison the second-lowest rating available. Previous reports identified high levels of drug use and violence, and widespread use of illegally obtained mobile phones and improvised weapons.

Former High Down Prison Officer Jailed

It was reported in September 2017 that a former officer at High Down was jailed after he encouraged inmates to attack sex offenders. James Cookson was found guilty of two counts of wilful neglect or misconduct in a public office. The court heard that Cookson had encouraged inmates to beat up vulnerable people in the jail, offering them tobacco as payment for carrying out the assaults. Sentencing him to four years in prison, the judge said: “Cookson has undermined the prison and he has undermined the trust that is put in prison officers.”

Well-Known Inmates at High Down

Gary Glitter was moved to High Down after receiving a 16-year sentence for multiple historic child sex offences. Former English cricketer Chris Lewis spent six years at the jail following his conviction for drug smuggling.

HMP High Down Contact Details

The prison governor is Louise Spencer. The address is HMP High Down, High Down Lane, Sutton, Surrey, SM2 5PJ. The phone number is 0207 147 6300. Learn more about HMP High Down by visiting our High Down Prison dedicated web page.


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