Formerly used during World War II by female munitions workers as a residence, the building was repurposed in the 1960s as a male open prison. From 1974, Drake Hall has been used as a women's prison. In the mid-1990s, the prison was renovated. In 2002, it became a semi-open prison after a perimeter fence was constructed, but was re-designated a closed prison in March 2009.
Drake Hall holds both adult and young offenders. It specialises in foreign national prisoners and in resettlement.
The prison's regime includes incentives, education, workshops, training courses, farms and gardens, a works department, and a gym. There are also voluntary and paid outwork programmes and a listener scheme.