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Britain's £253m 'prison of the future' welcomes first inmate

Looks more like a hall of residence than Cell Block H! Britain’s £253 million eco-friendly ‘prison of the future’ with light and airy rooms, landscaped gardens, football pitches and NO bars on the windows welcomes its first inmate

  • HMP Five Wells is the UK’s first eco-friendly privately run mega prison in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire
  • It was built from recycled materials and uses solar panels for some of its energy to reduce its carbon footprint 
  • Lock-up has clear focus on rehabilitating offenders and is seen as flagship example of prisons of the future
  • Its buildings are in the shape of crosses and hold up to 1,680 inmates, who sleep in bright and spacious rooms 

Britain’s pioneering eco-friendly ‘super prison’ has welcomed its first inmate – who will sleep in a ‘light and airy’ room with bar-free sliding windows while enjoying the use of football pitches, games areas and beautifully landscaped gardens. 

Costing £253million to build, HMP Five Wells is the UK’s first privately run mega prison in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire – which officially opened in January before welcoming its first prisoner last week. 

Built from recycled materials and using solar panels to reduce its carbon footprint, the Category C lock-up will have a clear focus on rehabilitating offenders and is seen as a flagship example of the Government’s aim to create a ‘modern, efficient prison estate that is fit for the future’.

Its buildings are in the shape of crosses and hold up to 1,680 inmates, who will sleep in brightly decorated and spacious rooms that would not look out of a place in a university halls brochure – complete with unobstructed views over the beautiful River Nene and a fishing lake.   

The landscaped grounds include a horticultural area and four multi-use games areas, two of which have raised bleachers for spectators. 

The jail designers have ditched the usual K-shaped formation of prison housing blocks and instead used seven staggered cross-shaped buildings.

Costing £253million to build, HMP Five Wells (pictured in aerial photograph) is the UK’s first privately run mega prison in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire

The prison offers light and airy rooms (pictured) that wouldn’t look out of place in a university halls brochure 

The pioneering ‘eco-friendly’ lock-up officially opened last month before welcoming its first prisoner last week (Pictured: One of the ‘cells’)

Built from recycled materials and using solar panels to reduce its carbon footprint, the lock-up will have a clear focus on rehabilitating offenders (Pictured: Multi-use games area)

The jail is seen as a flagship example of the Government’s aim to create a ‘modern, efficient prison estate that is fit for the future’ (Pictured: Bright and spacious room for inmate)

The K-block style has been favoured since Victorian times, with the idea that a single prison officer could be placed in the centre of the radial arms of corridors and survey all the cells quickly.

The new cross-shaped buildings mean the corridors are broken up into smaller zones, rather than miles of long corridors, which enable prison staff to have more direct contact with prisoners.

The buildings have been arranged around beautifully landscaped courtyards and there is also a central hub for education, vocational training and social facilities.

The jail, which features electric car charging points, is Britain’s first eco-friendly prison and has been built using recycled materials while incorporating green energy. 

It will use more efficient heating and hot water, as well as renewable energy, including solar panels, and will emit 35 per cent less carbon per prisoner per year than existing prisons.

The prison build has been handled by Kier group and has been made on the site of the former HMP Wellingborough site, which closed in 2012, and held a maximum of 650 adult male inmates.  

A prison service spokesperson previously said: ‘Bar-less windows will stop waste being thrown out and prevent prisoners accessing drugs and mobile phones flown in by drones.’ 

A local added : ‘I drive past it every day on my way to work. You can’t miss it. It’s certainly an imposing building from the outside, and for anyone driving along the A45. 

‘The area already has lots of big grey distribution centres so it doesn’t look too out of place. Hopefully it will create lots of jobs.’

Construction began in 2019, when ministers trumpeted the works as creating 100 new jobs and 50 apprenticeships – and set a target of filling a quarter of the roles with ex-offenders, although it is unclear if this was met. 

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