HM Prison Gartree
|Location||Market Harborough, Leicestershire|
|Security class||Adult Male/Category B|
|Population||703 (as of July 2014)|
|Managed by||HM Prison Services|
|Website||Gartree at justice.gov.uk|
Gartree Prison opened in 1965, and was originally a Category C training centre, but its status was quickly upgraded to a maximum security prison.
The prison is infamous for a daring helicopter escape in 1987. The breakout remains the only one of its type to have been carried out in the United Kingdom. On 10 December 1987 at 3.15 pm, John Kendall and Sydney Draper were sprung from Gartree's exercise yard with the aid of a hijacked Bell 206L helicopter. Kendall was a gangland boss serving eight years while Draper was serving a life sentence for murder. The escape caused great controversy at the time and led to a tightening of security at the jail. Kendall was recaptured 10 days later, but Draper remained on the run for another 13 months.
In 1992 Gartree was downgraded from a category A to a category B training prison. Since then the population of life sentenced prisoners at Gartree grew, and in 1997 the prison's role changed to that of a main life prisoner centre.
In a 2003 report the Board of Visitors criticised Gartree Prison for a serious shortage of staff, and budget cuts which were having a significant impact on services at the jail. The report noted that despite more than 30 proven allegations of racial discrimination between prisoners, there were not enough resources at the prison to release a member of staff to train as a race relations officer.
In June 2004 a scheme to support older prisoners was launched at Gartree Prison. This was in response to the fact that Gartree had one of the highest number of older prisoners in the country, holding 400 inmates aged over 50, with 17 aged over 60 and three in their 70s. The scheme which was backed by Age Concern was designed to work with older prisoners to promote access to their rights and discuss services within the prison.
The prison today
Gartree Prison currently has Category B status, and many of its inmates are long-term prisoners serving life sentences. Most prisoners are employed in prison workshops or in the prison gardens, however there is a small learning department which provides education including offending behaviour programmes. 2013 X Factor winner Sam Bailey is a former Prison Officer at the prison.
Notable former inmates
Gerrard Conlon (Guildford four)
- "Helicopter escape still remembered 19 years on". 2006. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 24 November 2007.
- Callan, Dick (2006). Gartree, The Story of a Prison. BEEC Publications. ISBN 978-0-9553009-0-5.
- "Prison 'seriously understaffed'". BBC News. 6 February 2003. Retrieved 3 May 2010.
- "Charity supports older prisoners". BBC News. 18 June 2004. Retrieved 3 May 2010.