HM Prison Durham

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HMP Durham
Durham Prison - - 228811.jpg
Durham Prison viewed from the main tower of the cathedral
Location Durham, County Durham
Security class Adult Male/Category B
Capacity 1017 as of 8th March 2011[1]
Population 981 (as of October 2006)
Opened 19th century
Managed by HM Prison Services
Governor Tim Allen
Website Durham at

HM Prison Durham is a Victorian era local Category B men's prison, located in the Elvet area of Durham in County Durham, England. Built in 1819, the prison continues to be operated by Her Majesty's Prison Service. Women prisoners were moved in 2005 due to overcrowding and suicides.


Durham Prison was built in 1810, consisting of some 600 cells and took its first prisoners in 1819.[2] It is adjacent to Durham's Crown Courts. The prison has held a variety of different categories of prisoners, both male and female over the course of its history. Between 1869 and 1958, 95 judicial executions took place on the gallows at Durham prison or the court house.[2] In 1832, protests over working conditions in the South Shields workhouse were supported by miner strikes. Soldiers were sent to evict striking miners from their pubs. One miner was convicted of the murder of a local magistrate near Jarrow Slake. He was hanged amid heightened security of 50 mounted Hussars and 50 infantrymen to protect the gallows. His body was gibbeted after death.[2]

On 17 December 1958, the final execution took place when Private Brian Chandler (aged 20) was hanged for the murder of Martha Dodd during the course of theft. Chandler was a soldier, based at Catterick camp, who beat 83-year-old Dodd to death with a hammer.[2][3][4]

During the late 1960's and 1970's the prison became a study project for Stan Cohen and Laurie Taylor, which led to their publication of three books, namely Psychological Survival: The Experience of Long-term Imprisonment (1972), Escape Attempts (1976), Prison Secrets (1978) and Cohen's book, Visions of Social Control: Crime, Punishment and Classification (1985).

In 2001, Durham (which was a Category A prison for men and women at the time) was praised by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons for its progressive regime, integration of inmates and falling levels of violence.[5] However, in 2003 it was revealed that Durham had the highest suicide rate of all prisons in England.[6]

In 2004, a report by the Chief Inspector of Prisons criticised Durham for being severely overcrowded. The report highlighted the lack of education and work opportunities for inmates at the prison.[7]

In 2005, Durham's female high security wing with 120 prisoners was discontinued and the prisoners transferred elsewhere after HM Inspectorate of Prisons reports concluded that it was unsuitable for housing female prisoners following several suicides.[8]

On 13 July 2011, it was announced that along with several other prisons, HMP Durham would be put up for market testing as part of a Ministry of Justice (United Kingdom) budget plan to make savings of almost 25%.[9]

A 2014 report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons found that a third of inmates tested positive for drug use, a rate almost twice as high as would be expected in similar prisons. Rates of violence were also higher than expected which indicated that monitoring should be improved. The prison was, however praised for the quality of work activity and learning available to prisoners.[10]

The prison today[when?][edit]

Durham is currently[when?] a Category B local prison for convicted and remand adult male prisoners, primarily serving the courts of County Durham, Tyne and Wear and Teesside. It is divided into 7 wings plus a segregation and healthcare sections. The prison offers full and part-time education to all inmates, including courses on data input, bricklaying, woodwork, painting and decorating, waste management and gardening.

Notable former inmates[edit]

Film and TV links[edit]

  • The 1980 British film McVicar starring Roger Daltrey is primarily set in Durham Prison.
  • The Prison is featured in Longford (2006) - Myra Hindley as an inmate


  1. ^ Ministry of Justice Durham Prison information Prison finder, 5 March 2012, retrieved 30 September 2015
  2. ^ a b c d "Durham prison". n.d. Retrieved 2013-04-12. 
  3. ^ "Crime and Punishment in Durham: The History of Durham Prison". Retrieved 2013-04-12. 
  4. ^ Published on 12/06/2008 10:49 (1958-12-17). "1958: Last man hanged - News". Sunderland Echo. Retrieved 2013-04-12. 
  5. ^ "Progressive prison wins praise". BBC News. 2001-09-18. Retrieved 2010-05-01. 
  6. ^ "Durham Prison tops suicide table". BBC News. 2003-01-12. Retrieved 2010-05-01. 
  7. ^ "Report highlights overcrowding". BBC News. 2004-01-13. Retrieved 2010-05-01. 
  8. ^ "Call to move 'She Wing' prisoners". BBC News. 2005-09-05. Retrieved 2010-05-01. She Wing has seen six suicides in 18 months among its female inmate population of 100. 
  9. ^ "Two prisons to shut in efficiency bid, MoJ says". BBC News. 2011-07-13. 
  10. ^ Mike Kelly Durham Prison criticised for violence and drug taking among inmates The Journal, 20 May 2014
  11. ^ Irish Republican Female Prisons Account - Durham Prison 2007/12/21
  12. ^ "Durham Prison History Including Mary Anne Cotton". Archived from the original on 2008-02-05. [dead link]
  13. ^ Department of the Official Report (Hansard), House of Commons, Westminster. "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 17 Jan 2000 (pt 35)". Retrieved 2015-10-09. 
  14. ^ a b c d e "Crime and Punishment in Durham: The History of Durham Prison". Durham University. Retrieved 2008-02-19. 
  15. ^ Innocent. "Guardian Newspaper: Guildford Four Ten Years On". Retrieved 2013-04-12. 
  16. ^ Ambushed: My Story - Judith Ward, Vermilion Books, December 1995
  17. ^ "Rose West's prison unit to close". BBC News. 2004-05-27. Retrieved 2008-02-19. 
  18. ^ a b "The Hood, The Bad and the Ugly - Scotsman Newspaper". Retrieved 2013-04-12. 
  19. ^ Carter, Helen; Weaver, Matthew (2010-07-05). "Police were warned of Raoul Moat's threat to harm ex-girlfriend". The Guardian (London). 
  20. ^ a b McVicar by Himself first published by Hutchinson's in 1974
  21. ^ "Straffen moved", The Times, 23 May 1968, p. 1

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 54°46′24″N 1°34′05″W / 54.77333°N 1.56806°W / 54.77333; -1.56806