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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 June, 2003, 14:07 GMT 15:07 UK
Woodhill Prison: Britain's Alcatraz
Woodhill Prison
The prison has been criticised
Woodhill Prison in Buckinghamshire was dubbed "Britain's Alcatraz" when it opened a new wing to house the country's most dangerous and violent offenders in high-security cells.

The Category A top security jail on the outskirts of Milton Keynes, which opened in 1992, caters for a mix of prisoners including high security cases such as life sentence prisoners, suspected terrorists and others who are facing charges of serious criminal or serious sexual offences.

Its most high-profile resident is Soham murder suspect Ian Huntley, although the Prison Service will not reveal which part of the prison he is held in.

In 1998 a wing was re-designated as a close supervision centre to hold a small number of prisoners who are among the most difficult and disruptive in the prison system.

It was the first attempt to contain the worst offenders from England and Wales together in one institution.

One of the country's most dangerous prisoners, Charles Bronson, jailed 27 years ago for armed robbery, has spent time there and even married at the prison.

Staff attitude

Prison governor Bob Mullen has described the make-up of the jail, which currently houses 749 prisoners, as "a heady mixture" which "presents complex and often competing management problems".

A report in Woodhill published by Her Majesty's Inspector of Prisons in February raised concerns about low staff numbers and the need to improve suicide monitoring.

But the report did praise the staff for maintaining a positive attitude.

An earlier report said some prisoners were being deprived of mental stimulation and human contact.

Inmates in the segregation unit - D-wing - lived in "total isolation in punishment conditions" with only an hour's respite a day.

Innovative work

The latest report, of an investigation into the circumstances surrounding an apparent drugs overdose in jail by Mr Huntley, highlighted a number of serious "systems failures".

In March this year, Saudi Arabian Adel El Haje, accused of murdering his wife, was found dead in his cell at Woodhill. An investigation into his death is underway.

The prison is however proud of winning awards for its innovative work with prisoners, particularly in education and drug and alcohol abuse.

The regime includes full-time and part-time classes in education.

There are offending behaviour groups such as a sex offender treatment programme as well as courses on enhanced thinking skills, drug management, developing your potential, relationships, life skills and development courses for young offenders.

'Serious failures' at Huntley jail
19 Jun 03  |  Politics
Full text of Huntley case statement
19 Jun 03  |  Politics
Huntley heads back to prison
10 Jun 03  |  Cambridgeshire
Huntley denies Soham murders
16 Apr 03  |  England
Soham vicar receives MBE
12 Jun 03  |  Cambridgeshire

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