Top 10 Largest Prisons In The UK
Top 10 Largest Prisons In The UK. Photo KnowInsiders
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There are many types of prison with the UK, both private and publicly owned and these are best defined by the nature of the prisoners they keep. There are also a split between Local Prisons and Dispersal Prisons.

There are 117 prisons in England and Wales. Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) runs most of these (104) while three private companies operate 13: G4S and Sodexo manage four prisons each, and Serco manages five. Private prisons are newer than those operated by the public sector and tend to be larger.

The size of the prison population is due to fall in future years, but spending is planned to fall faster. The gap between spending and demand in 2023/24 will be even larger if the Johnson government implements its proposals on police numbers, Crown Prosecution Service spending and sentencing reform.

List of Top 10 Largest Prisons In The UK

(Base on inmate population)

1.HMP Oakwood (West Midlands)-Number of inmates: 2,042

2.HMP Berwyn (Wales)-1,804 inmates

3.HMP Parc (Wales)-1,600 inmates

4.HMP Barlinnie (Scotland)–1,408 inmates

5.HMP Wandsworth (London)-1,358 inmates

6.HMP Norththumberland (North East England)-1,325 inmates

7.HMP Highpoint (East England)-1,257 inmates

8.HMP Forest Bank (North West England)-1,253 inmates

9.HMP Thameside (London)-1,199 inmates

10.HMP Peterborough (East England)-1,188 inmates


Prison safety in The UK

Wider questions about the safety of the UK’s almost 80,000 prison inmates. A recent briefing by the Prison Reform Trust said that “safety in prisons has deteriorated rapidly during the last eight years”.

According to Ministry of Justice data, the number of deaths in prison custody rose by 40% year-on-year to 396 in the 12 months up to September 2021, including 81 suicides, which increased by 13%.

The government’s Beating Crime Plan also aims to recruit an additional 20,000 police officers in the UK by March 2022, which will “lead to an influx of prisoners”, the Institute for Government predicted.

The Prison Reform Trust published a report which showed that there had been a “dramatic” increase in the number of people serving long prison sentences, with far more people now serving very lengthy terms. Nearly 11,000 people in prison in England and Wales will spend at least 10 years in custody.

Justice committee report suggested that as many as 70% of prisoners in England and Wales may have mental health issues. During Covid lockdowns many of us talked of being “stir-crazy”.

What Are the Largest Prisons In The UK

1.HMP Oakwood (West Midlands)-Number of inmates: 2,042

HMP Oakwood, England’s largest prison, near Wolverhampton, was found to have a culture of respectful treatment and high expectations of prisoners.

Top 10 Largest Prisons In The UK
Photo The Guardian

Inspectors from HM Inspectorate of Prisons visited the prison – which holds nearly 2,100 men and is run by G4S – in May 2021. Charlie Taylor, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said Oakwood occupied a relatively small site. It had opened as a category C training prison in 2012 and had been well-maintained and still looked clean and new, though half the population shared overcrowded cells.

A large proportion of prisoners at Oakwood are serving more than four years and 10% are on indeterminate sentences. Around a quarter are convicted sex offenders and half the overall population is assessed as posing a high risk of harm to others. Despite this, Mr Taylor said, “the prison was a safe and respectful place.” Oakwood was assessed as a safe prison.

2.HMP Berwyn (Wales)-1,804 inmates

HM Prison Berwyn (Welsh: Carchar Berwyn EM) is a £250 million Category C adult male prison in Wrexham County Borough, Wales. It is the largest prison in the UK, opened in 2017, and is operated by Her Majesty's Prison Service.

Top 10 Largest Prisons In The UK
Photo North Wales Lives

The prison is split into three houses, the first, Bala opening in February 2017 and the other two, Alwen and Ceiriog in the autumn. Each section can hold different communities including one for armed forces veterans. It was designed to house 2100 men and to be the cheapest to run Category C prison in the country, with a projected cost of £14,000 per inmate. However as of 2019, it is still incomplete, only 60% full and costs £36,000 per prisoner each year.

3.HMP Parc (Wales)-1,600 inmates

Top 10 Largest Prisons In The UK
Photo walesonline

Made for up to 1,652 inmates, the category B prison is found in Bridgend, Wales. It is now the only private prison in Wales and it has been developed on the premises of an old hospital.

Today, the prison houses young and adult males. Convicts are held in cells with sanitation, ventilation, and light. Leisure areas include ping pong and pool locations.

There’s an educational program run by Parc Prison which teaches convicts skills in math, English, and IT.

4.HMP Barlinnie (Scotland)–1,408 inmates

Barlinnie is a large local prison, receiving prisoners from the courts in the west of Scotland. The prison houses male offenders, remand and convicted who are serving less than 4 years. There is also a national top end for offenders who are life sentence offenders approaching a potential release date. In recent years Barlinnie has taken prisoners from all over Scotland in order to facilitate the new building programme within the Scottish Prison Service.

Top 10 Largest Prisons In The UK
Photo Scottish Prison Service
Below are some statistics

Average numbers in custody for 2013/2014 – 1305

Average 8,000 prisoner admissions per annum

Average 4,500 liberations per annum

Average 45,000 prisoner movements to Courts, transfers etc.

Average 3,600 prisoner visits per month

6326 prisoner visitors per month

1,143 legal agents visits per month


1879 Purchase of the land.

1882 A Hall commissioned.

1883 B Hall commissioned.

1887 C Hall commissioned and old gate completed.

1888 House for chaplain and doctor built outside gate.

1890 Link corridor A, B, C halls were built.

1892 D Hall Commissioned

1893 Chapel completed and perimeter extended to build E Hall.

1896 E Hall completed

1908 Old sheds built with alterations to E Hall.

1933 Alterations to D hall and new office block built adjacent to the gate.

1939 Gymnasium and (old) Library built.

1949 Handicraft workshop built.

1951 Dining halls were built.

1954 Old visits room completed.

1955 Female block built (closure of Duke St).

1960 Reception area reconstructed and V.T. introduced.

1968 New sheds complete.

1972 Special Unit in Female block (until 1994).

1983 Segregation Unit complete.

1989 Observation bridges built.

5.HMP Wandsworth (London)-1,358 inmates

Top 10 Largest Prisons In The UK
Photo Getty

With a large capacity of 1,562, Wandsworth prison in London is the largest prison in the UK. Wadsworth was redeveloped several times, mostly to increase its inmates’ capacity.

It has been the location of hundreds of executions and multiple negative conflicts mostly related to drug abuse. Today, the prison is making progress as it offers access to multiple workshops.

Wandsworth prisoners also have 2 onsite gyms to choose from. However, it remains a prison that still triggers investigation over the past few years.

6.HMP Norththumberland (North East England)-1,325 inmates

Top 10 Largest Prisons In The UK
Photo Northumberland Gazete

HMP Northumberland is a category C prison, with a current capacity of 1,354. It was formed in 2011 from the merger of two prisons situated only a few hundred metres apart; HMP Castington and HMP Acklington. In 2013, Sodexo, a private company, formally took over management of the prison, and the Howard League for Penal Reform recently reported that it was ‘failing miserably’ in its task to operate effectively as a penal establishment. If you’d like to visit HMP Northumberland, please view the map on this page.

7.HMP Highpoint (East England)-1,257 inmates

HMP Highpoint sits in the centre of the new village - split into two sites, known as Highpoint North and Highpoint South this is home to 1,000 category C prisoners, who are deemed by the justice system as "unlikely to escape".

Top 10 Largest Prisons In The UK
Photo Mirror UK

The prison was originally built as an RAF base in 1938 and on the base's closure in 1970 was temporarily converted into a transit camp for Ugandan refugees.

In 1977 the prison, as it is today, opened. To save on costs it was actually built by prisoners, saving the taxpayer £2 million.

8.HMP Forest Bank (North West England)-1,253 inmates

Top 10 Largest Prisons In The UK
Photo Manchester Evening News

HMP Forest Bank is a privately run category B male local prison, which accepts remand and sentenced adults and young offenders. It is run by Sodexo. The prison, which opened in 2000, is situated in Pendlebury, near Salford, and has a capacity of 1,460. It was constructed on the former site of Agecroft power station.

9.HMP Thameside (London)-1,199 inmates

Top 10 Largest Prisons In The UK
Photo The Times

HMP Thameside is a local category B resettlement prison in the Thamesmead area of the Royal Borough of Greenwich, South-East London and is situated next to HMPs Belmarsh.

Thameside is London’s only private prison and can currently hold 1232 convicted and remand male prisoners. A new-build prison, successfully completed in March 2012, Serco has run the facility since it opened. The prison quickly and safely respond to the needs of the custodial population within the heart of London.

10.HMP Peterborough (East England)-1,188 inmates

Peterborough is a privately run prison for both male and female residents in Westwood, Peterborough.

Peterborough is operated under a 25-year DCMF contract awarded by the Ministry of Justice to Peterborough Prison Management Ltd., which sub-contracts the operator, Sodexo Justice Services (formerly Kalyx). It opened on 28 March 2005, and holds Cat B and C prisoners. It is run as part of the East of England region and has a capacity of 868. The #1 governor is Damien Evans, who has been in charge since October 2016.

Top 10 Largest Prisons In The UK
Photo Daily Mail

The residential units are 3 house blocks. Each has 4 wings and each wing has 2 landings. All wings are self contained with a servery, showers, baths and association space. All cells have fitted furniture and each wing has purpose-built double cells. Other cells are single, some of which have been adapted for two prisoners.

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