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HM Prison Chelmsford is a Category B men's prison and Young Offenders Institution, located in Chelmsford, Essex, England. The prison is operated by Her Majesty's Prison Service.

HMP Chelmsford
Chelmsford HMYOI Prison (13828892195).jpg
LocationChelmsford, Essex
Security classAdult Male/Young Offenders Institution
Population695 (as of December 2016)
Managed byHM Prison Service
GovernorPenny Bartlett
WebsiteChelmsford at



Chelmsford Prison began as a county jail in 1830 before transforming into a Category B prison, a young person's prison, and a local prison. It was expanded in 1996.

In 1999 the management at Chelmsford Prison were severely criticised by the Chief Inspector of Prisons, after findings that staff were failing to respond to cell alarms five years after a prisoner was beaten to death by his cell-mate. The prison was also criticised for unacceptably bad conditions of cleanliness.[1] A further inspection a year later confirmed these failings at the prison.[2] In 2002, "conditions at Chelmsford...[were] condemned as 'poor and cramped' by the gaol's board of visitors."[3]

However, in 2005, Chelmsford was praised in its inspection for improving standards and procedures for inmates at the prison.[4] This was confirmed a year later by the Independent Monitoring Board which praised the new management at the prison.[5]

On 25 December 2007, 18-year-old Abdullah Hagar Idris hanged himself in the prison after he was told that he was going to be deported.[6]

In January 2013, the Ministry of Justice announced that older parts of Chelmsford prison will close, with a reduction of 132 places at the goal.[7]

In December 2015 a riot lead to six members of staff needing hospital treatment.[8]

The prison todayEdit

Chelmsford Prison accepts adult male prisoners and Young Offenders, convicted or on remand direct from courts within its local catchment area.

Education at the prison is contracted to Milton Keynes College, and courses offered include literacy, numeracy, information technology, art, barbering, journalism, cookery, ESOL as well as social and life programs. The prison's gym also offers physical education with industry-related qualifications, as well as recreational gym.

In addition, the prison has links to, and facilities provided by, organisations such as the Job Centre and the Samaritans. There is also a Prison Visitor Centre operated by the Ormiston Children and Families Trust.

Staffing at the prison has been reduced by 25%.[9] According to the Independent Monitoring Board bullying, violence and self-harm have increased markedly at the prison due to staff shortages. Budget cuts and the inability of the prison service to recruit and retain staff lead to fears for prison safety. The prison is becoming more dangerous and less effective. Prison health care provided by Care UK is considered poor, there were delays in getting medication and reliance on agency staff to fill vacancies.

There is insufficient secure mental health accommodation outside’ the prison for the most vulnerable inmates. The Independent Monitoring Board stated that the “level of service being provided to care for prisoners’ physical and mental health needs remains inadequate”[10] Due to staff shortages the staff were unable to provide engagement work or education for prisoners. Illegal drugs are a problem. Use of force by staff is increasing and there is insufficient monitoring if this use is appropriate. Prisoners must spend too long in their cells. Physical and mental health services for prisoners were found to be inadequate. The staff try to engage prisoners. Money is not available for needed renovation of the Victorian building.[11][12]

Following the death of a vulnerable inmate in January 2017 and criticism by the Prison Ombudsman, Care UK announced it would end its healthcare contract there as the level of resource the prison service made available was insufficient.[13]

Drug use is a serious problem at HMP Chelmsford according to HM Inspectorate of Prisons (42.6% of prisoners failed drug tests) and organised gangs supply prohibited items. Inspectors describe, "significant concerns about safety" and excessive levels of violence, much of the violence is due to supply and use of prohibited substances. Overcrowding and under-resourcing are blamed. Peter Clarke said the rising violence, suicides, accessibility of drugs and bad living conditions made him consider using the Urgent Notification protocol, which would make the Justice Secretary take action. In one month, prison authorities seized £15,000 worth of illegal goods. There were 17 suicides at Chelmsford during the 8 years to 2018 and 5 of them were since the inspection in 2016. For examples of suicides, see Notable former inmates. Deborah Coles of Inquest said the prison was, "incredibly unsafe [the rate of suicides] suggests that the plethora of recommendations following previous self-inflicted deaths have not been implemented. Inquests repeatedly identify the same systemic failings with dismal regularity. Recent inquests into deaths at Chelmsford prison have highlighted failures around the management of self-harm procedures, a lack of staff training in mental health awareness, inadequate risk assessments and failures in responding to bullying. The failure to implement existing guidelines on the care of those at risk indicates a lack of care, neglect and inhuman treatment from punitive and often inflexible prison regimes." Coles urged the setting up of a national group to supervise how lessons from inquests and reports are carried out, the group to be accountable to Parliament. Problems inspectors drew attention to included that 40% of prisoners who did not take part in activities were locked in their cells for up to 22 hours a day and items including mattresses and pillows were in short supply. The Howard League for Penal Reform maintain Chelmsford was designed to hold 521 men but the prison actually held 700 men when it was inspected.[14][15]

Notable former inmatesEdit

  • Ian Wright, former footballer
  • Alfred George Hinds
  • Warren Sampson, hanged himself in Chelmsford Prison on the 4th September 2015. Sampson's mother contacted the prison hours before his death because she was worried about messages he had sent her but the prison failed to safeguard Sampson. The prison ombudsman said suicide and self-harm procedures, "did not operate fully effectively" and "staff missed signs that Mr Sampson's vulnerability and risk of suicide had increased". Following a mental health review, a counsellor was worried about his anxiety and over a noose he had made, but prison staff did not, "explore this further". The charity Inquest said Chelmsford Prison, with one of the highest suicide rates in the nation, made, "the same systemic failings with dismal regularity".[16]
  • Dean Saunders, 25, killed himself at HMP Chelmsford in January 2016. An Inquest jury found Saunders was downgraded from continuous watch to half hour checks for financial reasons and neglect contributed to his death. Care UK, a private company running healthcare at Chelmsford, "treated financial consideration as a significant reason to reduce the level of observations" although they were warned repeatedly about Dean's mental condition. Dean's mother pleaded with staff to keep him under constant watch.[9] The jury stated Mr Saunders "and his family were let down by serious failings by mental health services and prison system" and that assessing his mental health needs was "not adequately conducted" with "multiple failings in recording and passing on information". Dean's family stated, "Hospital, not prison, is where Dean deserved and needed to be. We as a family, together with our lawyers and Inquest, want Dean's death to mark the end of empty promises and the start of change."[17][18] The Prison Ombudsman also found significant risk factors were ignored when observation of Dean Saunders was cut back.[19] The ombudsman found those trying to care for Dean felt he should be in a mental health facility rather than prison. The ombudsman added, "I am also concerned that there appears to have been some confusion at Chelmsford about the process for transferring mentally ill prisoners to hospital, which meant that an opportunity to transfer Mr Saunders in December [of 2015] was missed. Sadly, the criminal justice system did too little to protect this very vulnerable man. Dean's father, Mark Saunders said, "There was no proper medical structure there [in prison] to help him. We were lied to and mislead all the way through. We were devastated."[13]
  • In 1990 former professional footballer Tony Adams spent 57 days of a four month sentence in HMP Chelmsford for drink-driving[20].

In popular cultureEdit


  1. ^ "UK | Lessons not learnt at 'dreadful' jail". BBC News. 1999-03-09. Retrieved 2010-03-20.
  2. ^ "UK | Inspectors condemn 'sick' prison". BBC News. 2000-11-15. Retrieved 2010-03-20.
  3. ^ "UK | England | Visitors board criticises prison conditions". BBC News. 2002-12-03. Retrieved 2010-03-20.
  4. ^ "UK | England | Essex | Inspector praises improving jail". BBC News. 2005-01-13. Retrieved 2010-03-20.
  5. ^ "UK | England | Essex | Praise for work to improve prison". BBC News. 2006-01-30. Retrieved 2010-03-20.
  6. ^ "Criticism over death of teenager at Chelmsford prison." BBC. Wednesday 2 June 2010. Retrieved on 3 June 2010.
  7. ^ Danny Shaw (2013-01-10). "BBC News - Seven prison closures in England announced". Retrieved 2013-04-12.
  8. ^ Prison riot in Chelmsford puts staff in hospital BBC
  9. ^ a b Chelmsford Prison suicidal inmate's treatment 'despicable' say family
  10. ^ Britain’s prison suicide crisis: ‘There’s no political will. Dead prisoners do not win votes’ The Guardian
  11. ^ Violence at Chelmsford Prison has 'increased sharply' BBC
  12. ^ Prison officers and prisoners at risk as Chelmsford Prison struggles to cope
  13. ^ a b "Dean Saunders death: Prison ombudsman finds 'weaknesses'". BBC News. 23 January 2017. Retrieved 24 January 2017.
  14. ^ Chelmsford Prison sees nearly half of inmates fail drugs tests BBC
  15. ^ Chelmsford prison: Suicide failures at jail 'dismally regular' BBC
  16. ^ HMP Chelmsford prisoner took own life after 'inadequate response' to calls 'BBC
  17. ^ Dean Saunders inquest: Jury finds serious failings in case BBC
  18. ^ Jury concludes neglect contributed to death of Dean Saunders at HMP Chelmsford
  19. ^ Dean Saunders' mother: 'I told prison officials he would kill himself' BBC
  20. ^ Former football star Tony Adams says going to prison for drink-driving didn't teach him "anything"
  21. ^ "Live at Chelmsford Top Security Prison: The Sex Pistols: Music". Retrieved 2010-03-20.

External linksEdit