What is Dartmoor Prison like?

What is Dartmoor Prison Like

What is Dartmoor Prison Like: An In-Depth Look at Life Behind Bars

Dartmoor Prison, officially known as HMP Dartmoor, is a landmark in the British prison system with a history that spans over two centuries. Located in the scenic setting of Princetown, at the heart of Dartmoor National Park, the facility has a complex and colorful history that intrigues many. But what is life actually like inside its walls?

Dartmoor Prison: An Overview

Today, Dartmoor is a Category C training prison, designed mainly to accommodate non-violent offenders, white-collar criminals, and those convicted of sexual offences. However, it is important to note that the prison serves as a support site for sexual offenders and does not provide specialized treatment programs for this group. With a capacity to house 659 inmates, Dartmoor has undergone numerous transformations since its original construction in the early 1800s.

What is Dartmoor Prison like?

A Glimpse into History

Built initially to detain prisoners from the Napoleonic Wars, Dartmoor Prison has a rich history. It first laid its foundation stone in 1806. Although it was briefly closed after the wars, the prison was reopened in 1850 and has been operational since, with a focus on serving as a correctional facility rather than a POW camp. However, it was recently confirmed that Dartmoor Prison will close in 2023 due to its age and operational costs.

The Challenges for Prison Guards

Working as a guard at Dartmoor is not without its risks. Violent incidents against prison officers are not uncommon, with some staff experiencing severe attacks during their service.

What is Dartmoor Prison

What is Dartmoor Prison like?

Employment Opportunities

Despite its looming closure, Dartmoor Prison has been hiring new prison officers, offering a starting salary of £22,843 for a 39-hour workweek. The job demands resilience but promises excellent training, benefits, and the support of a dedicated team.

Impact on Local Law Enforcement

Dartmoor Prison accounts for a significant portion of the workload for local police. Approximately 18% of all detective work in the Tavistock area is related to incidents at the prison.

Healthcare at Dartmoor

End-of-life care for dying inmates is given special attention, with the healthcare team winning awards for their compassionate service.

Safety Concerns

Recent reports indicate that Dartmoor struggles with issues such as drug use, self-harm, and under-reporting of violence among inmates, all of which remain areas of concern for authorities.

Notable Inmates

The prison has housed several notorious criminals, including Frank Mitchell, known as “The Mad Axeman,” and Jack “the Hat” McVitie, a notorious criminal who was murdered by Reggie Kray.

Special Provisions

The prison offers a special menu for Christmas Day, catering to various dietary needs and ensuring that inmates are not excluded from festive celebrations.


A recent watchdog report noted that the majority of the inmates (70%) at Dartmoor are sex offenders, which raises concerns regarding pre-release planning as Dartmoor is not a designated resettlement prison.

The Inmate Experience

Inmates at Dartmoor generally have periods of free association time during which they can socialize and move around common areas. The prison also encourages inmates to engage in work or education.

The Uncertain Future

The decision to close Dartmoor Prison has raised concerns about its impact on local employment and tourism. Local community leaders have expressed disappointment over the forthcoming closure, which will undoubtedly affect the local economy.

With its days numbered, Dartmoor Prison remains a subject of fascination and debate, drawing attention not just for its infamous inmates but for the unique challenges and concerns it presents in the modern era.

Dartmoor Prison