What is Bronzefield Prison Like?

What is Bronzefield Prison Like

HMP Bronzefield, located just outside of Ashford in Surrey, England, is not only a significant correctional facility in the UK but also carries the distinction of being the largest female prison in Europe. Managed by Sodexo Justice Services, Bronzefield is unique as the UK’s only purpose-built private prison designated exclusively for women.

What is Bronzefield Prison Like?

Key Features of HMP Bronzefield:

  1. Capacity and Size: As Europe’s largest female prison, Bronzefield has the capacity to house 527 inmates.
  2. Unique Inmates: The prison’s roster over the years has included high-profile criminals such as serial killers, terrorists, and individuals notorious for particularly heinous crimes, including the likes of Rosemary West and Joanna Dennehy.
  3. Safety Concerns: In recent years, inmates have expressed concerns over safety, recounting incidents of violence and claims of women having boiling water splashed onto them.
  4. Allegations and Claims: Former inmate Sophie Campbell revealed allegations about the facility, including claims that some prisoners offered sexual favours to guards in exchange for preferential treatment.
What is Bronzefield Prison Like

What is Bronzefield Prison Like?

Spotlight on Notable Inmates:

  • Joanna Dennehy: Among the most infamous inmates is Joanna Dennehy, a 39-year-old serial killer. Responsible for the murders of three men in 2013, she remains one of the two women in the UK serving whole-life sentences. Dennehy’s sinister side persisted behind bars, with plots to escape that included grotesque tactics like intending to use a guard’s severed finger to bypass the prison’s biometric security.

  • Karen Matthews: Known to many as Britain’s “worst mum,” Matthews spent two years in HMP Bronzefield due to her involvement in the fake abduction of her child. During her incarceration, Matthews made headlines for various reasons, from her changing appearance to penning explicit letters from her cell.

Sophie Campbell’s Experience:

Sophie Campbell’s tenure at Bronzefield came after a confrontation with a police officer. She recalls the frequent violent altercations she witnessed, the diverse backgrounds of the inmates, and the challenges she faced as someone who never expected to find herself in prison. Despite her unexpected detour, Sophie managed to rebuild her life post-release.

Important Facts about Women in Prison:

  • Recent studies on women’s health in prison reported surprising findings: of the 2,250 women interviewed one month after their incarceration, a small number confirmed having had sexual relations during that period.

  • Women prisoners face a staggering 69 times higher risk of death in the week following their release when compared to the general female population.

  • A mere 9% of imprisoned women’s children are looked after by their fathers during the mother’s incarceration.

  • Between 2014-2020, the recall rate for women (those losing their community living license) surged by 131%, a stark contrast to the 22% recall rate among men.

  • Half of the women on remand reportedly don’t receive any visits during their prison term.


HMP Bronzefield stands out in the UK not just for its size, but also for its reputation. It serves as a cautionary backdrop against which myriad personal stories play out, from the tragic to the hopeful. The tales of those within its walls serve as a poignant reminder of the diverse paths that lead individuals to such institutions and the challenges they face during and after their time served.


What is Bronzefield Prison Like