HMYOI Deerbolt is a Category C Training Prison located on the outskirts of Barnard Castle, a historical market town in Teesdale, County Durham. The prison is operated by Her Majesty’s Prison Service and has been governed by Andrew Hudson since June 2018. HMYOI Deerbolt was opened in 1973 on a former army camp and holds around 500 young offenders aged between 18 and 23. At Deerbolt, most prisoners are serving sentences of up to four years, after being convicted in various courts around the North East and Humberside area.
The title of ‘Training Prison’ simply means that the YOI prioritises giving these young prisoners the opportunity to learn, work, and develop key skills to prepare them for life and employment outside of prison upon their release.
Opportunities for Prisoners
The prison’s education system is run by Novus, a subsidiary of The Manchester College. They offer both full and part-time classes in a variety of subjects, including sciences such as maths and IT, humanities subjects such as history and geography, and arts subjects such as music, drama, creative writing and painting. There is also a gym on site which offers Physical Education qualifications. There are vocational courses on offer too, such as catering, office administration, bricklaying, plastering, painting and decorating, motor mechanics and fork-lift truck driving.
HMYOI Deerbolt in the news!
1999 – Four inmates escaped from the prison.
2000 – A year after four prisoners escaped, a report from HM Chief inspector of prisons found that Deerbolt was dangerously overcrowded, with too many inmates and not enough staff or resources. Immediate action was necessary.
2005 – In February, six inmates rioted in the prison chapel, which left the chapel in ruins and required thousands of pounds to be spent of repairs. Staff had to call the police and prison control teams to deal with the uprising. Luckily only the chaplain and one prisoner were left with very minor injuries.
In July, 25 prisoners were involved in a huge riot at the prison, requiring police, firefighters and ambulance crews to be called into action. The cost of damage was in the thousands, after prisoners barricaded themselves in the recreation room, smashed up the furniture and broke windows.
2007 – Prison officers passed a vote of no confidence in the then Governor Deborah Baldwin after a wing in the prison was taken over by inmates during a five-hour riot which left four prison officers with some serious injuries.
2011 – An inspection revealed that the prison was “fundamentally safe” but work was required to reduce levels of violence. It also noted that the population of the prison was at a challenging level.
2015 – An uproar of violence in the prison resulted in one prisoner being taken to hospital with severe head injuries. The violence erupted during the communal hours of the morning, resulting in inmates throwing pool table balls at officers and setting fires in their cells. Ambulance services were called along with the national response team made up of officers specifically trained in riot control, called the Tornado team.
2016 – On May 2, a 19-year-old boy named Ryan Gorton was found dead after hanging himself in his cell. The young man had been jailed for four years for GBH and possession of a knife after stabbing a fellow pupil in 2015. The suicide came as a shock for family and fellow inmates, but the youngster had a history of self-harm that the prison mental health services had put down as “reactive”. It is one of only two deaths that the prison has seen since it opened in 1973.
2018 – 27-year-old prison officer Stacey Sutherland was found guilty of having a romantic relationship with convicted blackmailer, 20-year-old Leon Shooter. They admitted to writing love letters to each other, having two 10-minute conversations on the phone, and kissing and cuddling in the cleaning cupboard whilst she was on duty. She avoided jail time but was given 150 hours of community service and an 18-month suspension.
2019 – The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) released a report on HMYOI Deerbolt which raised concerns for the prison around drug use, gangs, increased violent behaviour, and staff shortages.
In November 2019, it was found that some prisoners had been smuggling drugs through the walls of the prison. The issue was a talking point when it appeared on ITV’s fly-on-the-wall documentary Inside Prison: Britain Behind Bars. Prisoners had burrowed small holes in their cell walls to create compartments to hide drugs and contraband, like something out of a movie.
2020 – Earlier this year, 18 inmates were involved in a riot in one of the wings of the prison, which left four staff members with minor injuries. The Tornado team of trained officers were called in to regain control of the wing, successfully diffusing the situation about 4 hours after it had begun.