After Holloway

During the 2015 Autumn Spending Review the Chancellor of the Exchequer made the surprise announcement that HMP Holloway – the largest women's prison in Western Europe, and the only women's prison in London was to close. By the end of 2015, the prison had begun a rapid process of closure with women immediately being relocated across the remaining prison estate in particular to HMP Bronzefield and HMP Downview. Around 200 women were moved to Downview, a prison which had been empty for two years and was not fully up and running when women were moved in.

Following this WIP has worked to understand and raise awareness of the impact the closure has had on women affected by the criminal justice system. In partnership with the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, WIP published AFTER HOLLOWAYa consultation with 50 women affected by the criminal justice system, most of whom were imprisoned in HMP Holloway asking whether and how the closure has had an impact and ideas for what they would like to now see developed on the vacant site.

Key Quotes:

I moved to Downview where nothing was up and running, then I tried killing myself twice, because all the help and support was taken away from me. Holloway was the only prison where I saw progress, within myself and life. All that was taken away from me for no reason.

I was upset, I was from King’s Cross and all my friends and community was from that area, then I was moved out of London where it’s difficult for friends to visit and get back into work for ROTLs (Release on Temporary License which involves day release to go out to volunteer or work).

People who are not in prison will have to pay out a lot more money to visit their loved ones…some prisoners will not get visits and that has a knock on effect for the family and prisoners.

I was upset to hear that Holloway was closing down as the jail on the whole had a lot for us no matter what type of sentence you had. Now it seems courses that are needed are in jails out of London meaning visits are harder too now and there’s no stability.

I was upset about the closure of Holloway… Staff were approachable and cared for the prisoners, there were more interesting jobs and activities there, the prison was well run. I personally liked that you could see beyond the prison walls from the top floor, it was well located and you didn’t feel so closed off, you could see and hear the outside world.

Key Findings:

  • The closure of Holloway had, and continues to have, a significant negative impact on women affected by the criminal justice system
  • The redevelopment of the Holloway site should include specialist housing for women affected by the criminal justice system.
  • Support services for mental health and domestic violence were identified by participants as a key need to be developed on the site.
  • The Holloway site should be used to support and empower women.
  • The redevelopment should acknowledge that the site was a prison of historical significance