HM Prison Leeds
|Location||Leeds, West Yorkshire|
|Security class||Adult Male/Category B|
|Population||1212 (as of October 2012)|
|Managed by||HM Prison Services|
|Website||Leeds at justice.gov.uk|
HM Prison Leeds is a Category B men's prison, located at Gloucester Terrace in the Armley area of Leeds in West Yorkshire, England, which opened in 1847. Leeds Prison is operated by Her Majesty's Prison Service, and is still known locally as Armley Gaol (or Armley Jail), the historical name for the prison.
Construction of Leeds Prison (originally named Leeds Borough Gaol) was completed in 1847. Built from locally quarried stone, the prison originally had four wings radiating from a central point in a Victorian architectural style (known as 'radial') typical of the time. Each of these four wings had three landings of cells. Eventually Armley Gaol was renamed along with other prisons to make their locations more obvious to people unfamiliar with these areas.
The prison was a site of execution (by hanging) from 1847 until 1961. The final execution was that of Zsiga Pankotia, by Harry Allen for the murder of Jack Eli Myers in a house burglary in the city's affluent Roundhay district. The final execution in A block was that of 19 year old Walter Sharpe in 1950.
In 1990, the Howard League for Penal Reform announced that it would conduct its own independent inquiry into the deaths of five teenage prisoners at HMP Leeds. This followed a refusal by the Home Office to hold a public inquiry.
A further two wings were added in 1994, and a new gate complex was opened in September 2002, providing much needed staff facilities and an improvement to the entry point for all visitors and staff. Most of the older parts of the prison have been extensively refurbished since 2003.
In August 2003 a study by the Prison Reform Trust revealed that Leeds prison had the highest level of recorded drug use among prisoners in England and Wales. 28.3% of inmates held at Leeds Prison tested positive for controlled substances.
In 2006 the prison became the first to migrate onto the CNOMIS computer system. This was a large undertaking at great financial impact to the government.
In July 2005 The Howard League for Penal Reform published statistics showing that Leeds Prison had the second highest suicide rate of all prisons in England and Wales. 25 inmates had committed suicide at the prison between 1995 and 2004.
In June 2008 a report by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons severely criticised conditions for inmates at Leeds Prison, and accused managers of making up figures relating to how long inmates spent in their cells. In reality some prisoners were out of their cells for just two and a half hours a day. The report also highlighted problems with hostile and unhelpful staff at the prison.
In 2008, Times journalist Robert Crampton used his Beta Male column to ask for invitations to give speeches, to improve his public speaking skills. He received 400 invitations, but only accepted a handful, including Leeds Prison. He visited the prison to give the speech in 2009, subsequently reporting on the experience in The Times.
In June 2010 a further report by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons on their unannounced follow-up visit commented that “it is pleasing to report that this unannounced follow-up visit charted further progress in all areas, as a result of close and effective management” and that “there had been a noticeable improvement in staff-prisoner relationships and considerable management attention to aspects of diversity, in particular race”. However, the report also claimed that illicit drug use at the prison was high, in-patient and day care facilities as part of the healthcare provision remained inadequate, and the prison lacked enough purposeful activity for inmates, with many prisoners spending too much time in their cells.
In May 2013 a further inspection report found that conditions had generally improved at the prison, including lower drug use amongst prisoners and better healthcare facilities. The report also praised security at the prison and its resettlement wing. However the report highlighted that prisoners still lacked enough purposeful activity, and that vulnerable inmates needed better protection at the prison. The report also found that the quality and quantity of food given to inmates was poor.
Two months later Leeds Prison was the first prison in the country to be awarded a Leaders in Diversity Award from the National Centre for Diversity. The award was given in recognition of the prisons efforts to be inclusive for LGBT staff and inmates, as well as various equality and diversity programmes at the prison for all staff and inmates.
The prison today
In addition to serving the courts, the key focus of the prison is to ensure prisoners are discharged, having had their housing needs assessed and where possible settled accommodation and employment arranged. The establishment also focuses on support to prisoners with regards to health and lifestyle, including drug detoxification and prescribing programmes as well as the delivery of the Short Duration Drugs Programme.
The prison can house up to 1212 prisoners in six residential units, a segregation unit, First Night Centre, Vulnerable Prisoner unit and in-patients Healthcare Facility.
Notable former inmates
- "Governor defends under-fire prison". BBC News. 13 August 2003.
-  The Guardian, 29 July 2004, Vikram Dodd
- "Prison suicides among the worst". BBC News. 5 July 2005.
- "Index". BBC News. 8 June 2010.
- Crampton, Robert (26 December 2009). "My year of public speaking". The Times (London).
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