The Westgate Unit
Within HMP Frankland is the unique Westgate Unit. This unit will hold 65 prisoners when fully operational. It was opened in 2004 and includes a psychologically informed planned environment (PIPE) unit that has room for 21 prisoners. It also consists of a 13 place healthcare unit and 28 segregation cells. Westgate is a secure unit for the most psychologically damaged prisoners in the system, often violent and likely to re-offend. Westgate hopes to offer a better way to help these men be rehabilitated or at least live a better life inside the prison, making it safer for themselves, officers and other prisoners.
The Westgate Unit is a mental health service for Personality Disorder Treatment. When Westgate opened in 2004, it was named a Dangerous Severe Personality Disorders Unit, DSPD, but have now been renamed. These sites now provide personality disorder treatment services in the high-security prison estate as part of the new national Offender Personality Disorder (OPD) Pathway Strategy.
The offenders in the unit usually have severe psychological problems caused by childhood abuses and trauma. Strict punishment regimes do not work for these prisoners, it was found once released they would often re-offend violently. The prisoners in here are diagnosed as psychopaths, borderline personality disorders, and sociopaths, all conditions lack empathy and can cause extreme violence. All have been convicted of serious violent or sexual offences, most of them several times.
The Unit is really a prison within a prison. It has its own regime and way of working. It is a ten minute walk from the main jail. It is one of four units,
the others are at Whitemoor prison near Cambridge, and at Rampton and Broadmoor high-security mental hospitals.
Nothing like Westgate had ever been tried before, it was the first time in the world, a large-scale, sustained attempt was made to develop and evaluate treatments for men usually regarded as untreatable: recidivist, violent psychopaths. Before this there was no treatment, these prisoners would be released when their time came, often to kill again or be kept in prison indefinably.
In 2004 it was an extremely costly experiment, Westgate’s official figure is £80,000 per year per prisoner. It cost £24m to build. In addition to the pool and table-tennis tables inside each atrium, an art studio, classrooms and a library, the compound includes a football pitch, two tennis courts, gardens with floral borders, allotments where prisoners may grow their own food, and a large greenhouse.
The ‘Jihadi’ Wing
HMP Frankland has another unique feature, often dubbed, ‘the Jihadi wing’, and it is another jail within the jail. This time, for extremist prisoners. A report on the separation centre at HMP Frankland in Durham described it as a “microcosm” of a normal jail. The prison’s Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) praised managers and staff for the “successful delivery” of the facility, given that it was a first of its kind it has opened the way for the successful implementation of other similar units in other prisons.
Three specialist facilities to isolate the most “subversive” individuals as part of efforts to clamp down on radicalisation behind bars were revealed in 2016. A review had warned that Islamist extremism was a growing problem in British jails. The separation unit at Frankland was the first to open, receiving its “initial cohort” of prisoners in June 2017. The prisoners in the unit are treated the same as the main buildings prisoners are but are kept away from the main population, so they can not influence others. The prisoners work with psychologists, probation and religious leaders to try and understand their extremism and modify it.