What is Dovegate Prison Like?

What is Dovegate Prison Like?

Inside HMP Dovegate: A Closer Look at Life, Safety, and Rehabilitation

HMP Dovegate, a Category B adult male prison situated near Uttoxeter, Staffordshire, has been a subject of both scrutiny and improvements over the years. Operated by the private security firm Serco, the facility can house up to 1,060 adult male inmates above the age of 21. These inmates range from those on trial, remand, awaiting sentencing, or serving either short or long-term convictions. Interestingly, HMP Dovegate is home to the UK’s only privately-operated purpose-built therapeutic facility aimed at altering the offending behavior of inmates. But what is life truly like inside its walls?

What is Dovegate Prison Like?

A Safe Haven or a House of Issues?

According to a recent report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons, HMP Dovegate has shown marked improvements in safety and rehabilitation planning since its last inspection in 2017. The prisoners, especially those new to the facility, reported a sustained “sense of safety” throughout their stay. Nevertheless, it still grapples with challenges, including fluctuating incidents of violence and ongoing drug-related issues.

What is Dovegate Prison Like?

What is Dovegate Prison Like?

Violence and Drugs: A Persistent Problem

Despite evident strides in making the prison safer, the facility still contends with violent incidents, often linked to drug abuse and debts among inmates. The report also revealed that there have been two deaths due to illicit substances and an additional three self-inflicted deaths since the last inspection. While the rate of self-harm at HMP Dovegate is “relatively low” compared to other prisons, drugs remain a key concern despite comprehensive strategies to combat them.

Rehabilitation and Therapeutic Initiatives

One of the unique features of HMP Dovegate is its specialized therapeutic facility. Through various therapeutic approaches, the aim is to help offenders break free from the cycle of criminal behavior. While the report commended the prison’s robust public protection arrangements and well-managed offending behavior programs, it also highlighted the need for more effective support and planning for inmates nearing release.

Amenities, Family Ties, and Staff Involvement

On a positive note, the prison’s general upkeep is commendable, with good access to amenities and well-maintained facilities. Prisoners are encouraged to maintain family connections, with more family visits being arranged since the last evaluation. Additionally, there’s been a significant decrease in formal disciplinary actions and use of force by staff, indicating a more stable environment.

Management’s Response

Prison Director John Hewitson expressed gratitude for the improvements noted in the report and acknowledged the hard work of the staff. He further stated the intention to focus on the identified challenges, especially the ongoing issues of drug availability and violence. HM Prison and Probation Service Director General for Prisons Phil Copple described the report as “encouraging,” but concurred that there’s more work to be done.


While HMP Dovegate has made significant strides in safety, rehabilitation, and management, it continues to face challenges, particularly in curbing violence and drug issues. The prison’s unique therapeutic facility stands as a model for offender rehabilitation, although the overall environment could benefit from ongoing improvements in these key areas. Time will tell if HMP Dovegate can overcome these issues to become a true beacon of rehabilitation and safety in the UK prison system.

What is Dovegate Prison Like?