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Insight Inside: HMP High Down – Providing a Solid Foundation for Reintegration

Opened in 1992 High down is situated opposite HMP Downview in Sutton. Built on the site of a former mental hospital at Banstead, the establishment serves the Crown Court at Guildford and Croydon and surrounding magistrate courts.

HMP High Down is a category B local, male prison and it has the operational capacity of 1163 inmates. The prison has four Houseblocks each with 181 spaces in single and double occupancy. Two additional Houseblocks are now open and each of them will house 176 prisoners. All of the new accommodation is single cell and have integral sanitation. The new cells are spread over three landings and all of the landings have their own showers and pin phone system in use.

For the disabled prisoners there are wheelchair ramps at Main entrance, in Houseblock 1 and to exercise yard in Health Care Centre. Two cells on Houseblock 1 and one in HCC are adapted for the needs of the prisoners with disabilities. The new accommodation has some specially adapted cells, and a lift system.

HMP High Down provides the following accommodation and facilities to the prisoners:

  • Showers on each landing
  • PIN phone system
  • Sentence Planning
  • Drug and alcohol practitioners provide support groups and integrating working with Health Care Centre around stabilisation
  • Drug Strategy Team – providing the Stepping stones Programme and RAPt Bridge Programme (abstinence based).
  • Stabilisation unit for dependent substance users
  • Drug Recovery Wing
  • Vulnerable Prisoner Houseblock
  • Mandatory Drug Testing
  • First Night in Prison scheme
  • Bail Information Scheme
  • Property Volumetric Control in operation
  • Prisoners can wear their own clothes
  • Standard and Enhanced prisoners can hire a TV for in-cell use.
  • All new prisoners undergo a three day induction process which is delivered by staff and prisoners, and includes an education assessment.
  • A library from which enhanced prisoners can borrow DVD’s and books.

There are various education programmes at High Down, provided by the Manchester College. Offenders can benefit from gaining or upgrading their skills in Literacy & Numeracy, IQT Computer Graphics, Cookery, Art, Budgeting & Money Management, Radio Production, Customer Service, Bricklaying, Carpentry, Assertiveness & Decision making, Alcohol Awareness, Furniture Recycling, Farms & Gardens, and many more. Accreditation is offered in areas like, but not limited to: Kitchen, Customer service, BICS.

Along with the education, prisoners can practice sports such as fitness, badminton, football, basketball and volleyball. The gymnasium department consists of: sports fields, tarmac area and 2 gyms.

For the religious needs of the inmates, HMP High Down provides regular visits and services.

The healthcare services are commissioned by NHS England and provided by Virgin Care Services. The prison has the inpatient capacity of 23 beds in single cells, along with a Day Centre facility within the in-patient area for both inpatients and outpatients. Multi-disciplinary team including 10 HCO delivers healthcare. GP, Dental services, X-ray Optician, Ultrasound, Asthma, Mental Health, and well-being programmes are accessible for the inmates.

Catering department is run by civilian caterers, employed by the Prison Service. All the chefs are trained assessors and the prisoners could get NVQ levels. The menu is pre – selected and is constantly evolving according to the prisoners’ preferences and seasonal availability of the produce. The facility has been awarded a good food hygiene award by the Reigate and Banstead Borough Council. In 2007, the Catering department received a Butler Trust Award – the Keith Bromley award for an outstanding contribution to Education and Skills training of offenders.

One of the High Down’s prides is the “The Clink” – a restaurant opened in 2009, it provides a more varied training programme for up to 28 prisoners and includes Food Service NVQ Level 2 as well as a diploma in professional cookery and also encourages the employment of ex-offenders into the hospitality industry. The Clink also offers prisoners mentoring upon release and this includes support with employment and accommodation. The re offending rate for 2012 for Clink graduates was down to 5% against a national average of 47% within the first year. The Clink is a multi – award winning restaurant and in 2010 won a coveted Catey award for training and also won the Longford prize in 2011.


Author: Aleksandar Petrov, ICPA