Prisons in England and Wales are classified according to security requirements for housing prisoners; categories A through D provide varying levels of protection. Category A being the most secure while Category D being least so that prisoners feel secure when housed there. These distinctions serve as the main dividing lines between these three popular prison types.
Category A Prisons
They are the highest security prisons located in England and Wales, housing those considered a greatest danger to public safety. These prisoners may have been convicted for murder, terrorism or other serious offenses and must maintain extensive perimeter protection as well as tight controls on prisoner movement. These facilities tend to have strict supervision and monitoring regimes in place for all inmates at all times.
Some notable Category A prisoners include:
- Myra Hindley and Ian Brady, collectively known as The Moors Murderers, were convicted in 1960s for torturing and killing five children. Both men were held in Category A prisons until their deaths.
- Harold Shipman, a former doctor and prolific serial killer in British history, was convicted of killing 15 of his patients in 2000 and kept in a Category-A prison until his suicide attempt in 2004.
- Thomas Mair, a far-right extremist, was found guilty in 2016 of the murders of MP Jo Cox and is currently being held in a Category B prison.
- Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, two Islamist extremists convicted of killing soldier Lee Rigby during a London street attack in 2013, are currently held in Category A prisons.
- Charles Bronson is a notorious criminal and one of the most violent prison inmates in the UK. He has spent most of his adult life behind bars, currently being housed in Category B prison.
Category B Prisons
These prisons provide security for prisoners who don’t require the most secure conditions, yet still require protection. They can house both convicted and remanded prisoners and are typically used for those serving sentences of 18 months to 10 years. Though less stringent than Category A facilities, these jails still feature strong security measures.
Category C Prisons
These prisons are for prisoners who pose a lower risk to public safety, such as those nearing their sentence end or those removed from Category B prisons. While these cells offer a more relaxed environment than Category A and B prisons, they still maintain high security standards with guards monitoring activities closely.
Her Majesty’s Prison Service operates over 100 prisons throughout England.
The top prisons in England
- Belmarsh prison, situated in Thamesmead (London), is a Category-A institution that houses high-risk prisoners such as those convicted or accused of terrorist offenses.
- Wandsworth Prison in south-west London is a Category A institution. It houses both convicted and remanded prisoners alike.
- Pentonville prison in north London houses both convicted and remanded prisoners.
- Manchester – Situated in Manchester’s Strangeways area, Manchester Prison is a Category-A prison that houses male adults. It also houses some of the country’s most high-profile and dangerous prisoners.
- Liverpool – Situated in Walton area of Liverpool, this Category A prison houses male adults.
- Holloway Prison in north London was a women’s prison until its closure in 2016.
- Durham: Durham Prison is a Category B prison that houses male adults.
- Leeds – Situated in Leeds’ Armley area, Leeds’ Category A prison houses male adults.
- Winchester, Hampshire is home to Winchester Prison for male adults and is classified as a Category A facility.
- HMP Brixton, situated in south London, is a Category A prison for male adults.
- HMP Bristol, located in Horfield (Bristol), is a Category A prison for male adults.
- HMP Chelmsford is a Category B prison located in Chelmsford (Essex), housing male adults.
- HMP Exeter, situated in Exeter, Devon, is a Category A prison for male adults.
- HMP Gloucester, situated in Gloucester, is a Category A prison for male adults.
- HMP Hewell, situated in Redditch (Worcestershire), is a Category A prison for male adults.
- HMP High Down, situated in Banstead (Surrey), is a Category A prison for male adults.
- HMP Hull, located in Hull, is a Category A prison for male adults.
- HMP Liverpool, situated in Liverpool, is a Category A prison for male adults.
- HMP Lowdham Grange is a Category A prison located in Nottinghamshire and housing male adults.
Visitation Hours of Category A, B and C Prisons in England
England has a variety of prisons, each with their own set of visiting hours that depend on where it is situated and the type of inmate housed there. Generally, visitors to prisons are only permitted during certain hours of the week, after having been approved in advance and abiding by strict guidelines to gain entrance.
These guidelines can help you better comprehend the visitation hours for prisons in England.
Category A and Category B Prison Visitation
Visits to these high security prisons are strictly limited and must be scheduled in advance. Visitors may need to go through rigorous security screenings and procedures as part of the visit.
Category C and D Prison Visitation
These prisons offer more flexible visiting hours than their Category A and B counterparts, allowing visitors to come more frequently. Visitors may still need to book ahead and go through security checks, however access may still be denied.
Women’s Prison Visitation
Visits to women’s prisons tend to be more family-friendly than other prison visits and are usually scheduled in the evening or on weekends. Visitors may need to go through security checks and may only be permitted in for a brief amount of time.