HM Prison Wandsworth
Panorama of HMP Wandsworth from Heathfield Road
|Security class||Adult Male/Category B Local|
|Population||1877 (as of 29 May 2013)|
|Managed by||HM Prison Services|
|Website||Wandsworth at justice.gov.uk|
HM Prison Wandsworth is a Category B men's prison at Wandsworth in the London Borough of Wandsworth, South West London, England. It is operated by Her Majesty's Prison Service and is the largest prison in the United Kingdom.
The prison was built in 1851, when it was known as Surrey House of Correction. It was designed according to the humane separate system principle: a number of corridors radiate from a central control point with each prisoner having toilet facilities. The toilets were subsequently removed to increase prison capacity and the prisoners had to engage in the humiliating process of "slopping out", until 1996.
In 1930, inmate James Edward Spiers, serving a 10-year sentence for armed robbery, committed suicide in front of a group of Justices of the Peace who were there to witness his receiving 15 lashes, then a form of judicial corporal punishment.
In 1951, Wandsworth was the holding prison for a national stock of the birch and the cat o' nine tails, implements for corporal punishment inflicted as a disciplinary penalty under the prison rules. An example of a flogging with the "cat" carried out in Wandsworth Prison itself was reported in July 1954.
On 8 July 1965, Ronnie Biggs escaped from the prison, where he was serving a 30-year sentence for his part in the Great Train Robbery two years later he fled to Brazil and remained on the run until 2001, when he returned to the UK.
(in execution-year order)
On 25 April 1951, a double execution took place at Wandsworth, when Edward Smith and Joseph Brown stood on the gallows together and were executed simultaneously. The final executions at Wandsworth were those of Francis Forsyth on 10 November 1960, Victor John Terry on 25 May 1961 and Henryk Niemasz on 8 September 1961 (Forsyth was one of just four 18-year-olds executed in a British prison in the twentieth century).
With the exceptions of Scott-Ford, Joyce and Amery, who were convicted of treachery, all executions were for the crime of murder. The gallows were kept in full working order until 1993 and tested every six months. In 1994, they were dismantled and the condemned suite is now used as a tea room for the prison officers.
The gallows' trapdoor and lever were sent to the Prison Service Museum in Rugby, Warwickshire. After this museum permanently closed in 2004, they were sent to the Galleries of Justice in Nottingham, where those and an execution box may be seen.
In October 2009, gross misconduct charges were brought against managers of Wandsworth Prison, after an investigation found that prisoners had been temporarily transferred to HMP Pentonville before inspections. The transfers, which included vulnerable prisoners, were made in order to manipulate prison population figures.
In March 2011, an unannounced follow-up inspection was conducted by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons, which found that "...Wandsworth compared badly with similar prisons facing similar challenges and we were concerned by what appeared to be unwillingness among some prison managers and staff to acknowledge and take responsibility for the problems the prison faced."
The prison today
The prison has made good progress since the inspection in 2009 and has received praise from the MQPL Survey which was undertaken in March 2011, which demonstrated progress over the same survey results in 2009. Wandsworth Prison contains eight wings on two units. The smaller unit, containing three wings, was originally designed for women but is currently closed for refurbishment. It is planned to reopen as a Category C unit focusing on resettlement services.
Education and training courses are offered at Wandsworth, and are contracted from A4e. Facilities at the prison include two gyms and a sports hall. The large prison chaplaincy offers chaplains from the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Muslim, Jewish, Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist, Mormon and Jehovah's Witness faiths.
The establishment has an award winning in-cell radio station called 'Radio Wanno' managed by Kevin Field for Media for Development. The prison also offers prisoners training in radio production as well as literacy qualifications, ICT, employability and life skills while broadcasting programme information, advice and guidance for prisoners are supported in the seven reducing reoffending pathways.
The Spurgeons Visitors Centre is used to support families and friends of prisoners visiting Wandsworth Prison. Facilities include a rest area, refreshments and a children's play area. The centre also provides information on a selection of support agencies, such as the Prisoners' Families & Friends Service.
- Bat Khurts, head of Mongolia's counter-terrorism agency, 2010.
- Bruce Reynolds, the man who organized The Great Train Robbery. He spent time in Wandsworth for breaking and entering, assault and also robbery
- Charles Bronson, notorious long-term inmate and artist
- Chris Huhne, former Energy Secretary jailed for perverting the course of justice in relation to swapping fixed penalty points with his then wife, Vicky Pryce
- Christopher Tappin, businessman convicted in the US for selling weapons parts to Iran in violation of international sanctions and jailed 33 months in January 2013; transferred from FCI Allenwood, Pennsylvania to serve his remaining 14-month sentence at Wandsworth on September 2013.
- David Chaytor, first MP to be convicted for his part in the United Kingdom Parliamentary expenses scandal
- James Earl Ray, assassin of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Remanded from 8 June to 19 July 1968. ( See: Anthony Lewis, "Ray, on U.S. Plane, Leaves Britain," The New York Times, 19 July 1968: 16)
- James Ibori, Influential Nigerian politician
- Julian Assange, was remanded in custody at HMP Wandsworth on 7 December 2010 after being refused bail prior to an extradition hearing at Westminster Magistrates Court. On 16 December 2010, he was released on bail after another appeal.
- Max Clifford, former publicist, convicted of 8 counts of indecent assault, later moved to HM Prison Littlehey.
- Mazhar Majeed, cricket agent convicted for his part in the Pakistan cricket spot-fixing controversy.
- Mohammad Asif, cricketer convicted for his part in the Pakistan cricket spot-fixing controversy
- Oscar Wilde, writer
- Pete Doherty, musician
- Rolf Harris, Australian-born artist and entertainer, convicted for twelve counts of indecent assault, and it was revealed that he never turned up at Wandsworth but instead moved to HM Prison Bullingdon.
- Ronnie Biggs, participant in the Great Train Robbery, who escaped from the prison in 1965 before fleeing the country
- Ronnie Kray, organised crime leader
- Salman Butt, cricketer convicted for his part in the Pakistan cricket spot-fixing controversy.
In popular culture
Wandsworth is mentioned in multiple forms of media.
- Starred Up (2014) was written by a former therapist at this prison.
- Let Him Have It (1991) features Derek Bentley, who was held in this prison up until he was hanged in 1953
- In Anthony Burgess' novel A Clockwork Orange (1962), the character Alex is imprisoned at Wandsworth
- Graham Greene visited Wandsworth and used it as the model for the prison in which the hero awaits execution in the novel, It's a Battlefield (1934)
- In the novel Atonement (2001), by Ian McEwan, the character Robbie Turner is imprisoned in Wandsworth for over four years
- The prison is mentioned toward the end of the novel Down and Out in Paris and London (1933), by George Orwell
- Will Self's short story "The Nonce Prize", in his short fiction collection Tough, Tough Toys for Tough, Tough Boys (1998), is set in and around the prison
Wandsworth is mentioned in:
- "Let Him Dangle", a song from the Elvis Costello album Spike (1989)
- "Shot Music", a song by British rapper, Devlin
- "Truth Rest Your Head", a song by Gene
- "The Battle of Epping Forest" (1973), a song by Genesis, that mentions a hood: "Liquid Len by name, of wine, women and Wandsworth fame"
- "Switch", a song by Senser
- "Cool for Cats" (1979), a song by Squeeze
- 12 February 2011 episode of Saturday Night Live featured a satirical theatrical trailer for the British film Don' You Go Rounin' Roun to Re Ro. In the clip, character Terry Donovan is shown being released from HM Prison Wandsworth.
- In the television series Survivors, Tom Price escapes the prison after a deadly virus epidemic and kills the one remaining prison officer
- "Wandsworth Walloper". Time (New York). 17 February 1930. Retrieved 23 June 2007.
- "Memorandum to prisons re Birches and Cats-o-nine tails". Prison Commission. 20 July 1951. PRO: HO 323/13.
- "Prison mutiny men get 'cat'". Daily Mirror (London). 7 July 1954.
- "1965: Ronald Biggs escapes from jail". BBC News. 8 July 1965.
- The Execution of Lord Haw Haw at Wandsworth Prison in 1946
- "Inmates 'moved before jail check'". BBC News Online. 20 October 2009. Retrieved 26 October 2009.
- Report on an unannounced full follow-up inspection of HMP Wandsworth (Report). 4 March 2011. Retrieved 15 May 2012.
- Milmo, Cahal (7 January 2011). "Mongolia declares diplomatic war on Britain over arrested spy". The Independent (London). Retrieved 9 January 2011.
- "Golf club boss jailed for selling arms to Iran says he was 'broken' by rat-infested prison run by gangs as he returns to Britain". Daily Mail (London).
- "What can David Chaytor expect now he has been sentenced?". The Guardian (London). 7 January 2011. Retrieved 7 January 2011.
- Davies, Caroline; Jones, Sam; Hirsch, Afua (8 December 2010). "Julian Assange denied bail over sexual assault allegations". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 8 December 2010.
- Williams, Matt (16 December 2010). "Great to smell fresh air says freed Assange". The Independent (London). Retrieved 16 December 2010.
- Norrish, Mike (3 November 2011). "Pakistan spot-fixing scandal: live". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 4 November 2011.
- Rolf Harris taken straight to cushy prison despite reports pervert would do hard time at tough jail
- Crime Library – He's My Brother
- Ministry of Justice pages on Wandsworth
- Victorian Prisoners’ Photograph Albums from Wandsworth prison on The National Archives' website.