On Her Majesty’s Prison Service: Living near a prison

There are almost 80,000 prisoners in the UK, remanded in 117 prisons, which means there are 117 communities that are living near a prison.

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UK prisons are categorised A – D, with Category A security prisons housing prisoners who pose significant threat to the public and Category D which is known as an ‘open prison’. 

But what does this mean for the people who live nearby? And how can it affect your bottom line?

Where are the most prisons in England?

London, Staffordshire and Kent boast the most prisons in the UK, with London and Staffordshire having the unlucky distinction of eight prisons each, more than any other county in the UK. 

London is famously the location of HMP Belmarsh, one of seven Category A prisons in the UK, which has imprisoned Jeffrey Archer, Julian Assange and the Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs. 

Some of the most famous prisons in the UK are based in London. Wormwood Scrubs and Pentonville are two of four Category B prisons, with a Category C prison in Brixton and two Young Offenders Institutes across the city. 

LocationNumbers of prisonsPrison categories in area
London8A,B,C
Staffordshire8B,C
Kent7B,C,D

Staffordshire doesn’t have anywhere near as many high security prisons, with half of its eight sitting at the lower level Category C, alongside one Category B and three Young Offenders Institutes. 

Kent, despite its reputation as the Garden of England, is the unlucky location of seven prisons, ranging from Category B, down to D, as well as two Young Offenders Institutes.

But a special mention has to go to the Isle of Wight. Located off the south east coast of England, with a lovely view of Portsmouth, the island is only 390 km², but is home to two category B prisons, Albany and Parkhurst.

As an island, it’s the perfect place for a higher security prison as escape is a great deal harder than on the mainland. But it can’t be comfortable knowledge for the almost 142,000 residents of the island, especially as three prisoners, two of which were murderers, escaped Parkhurst in January 1995 and were on the run for four days. 

Would you want to live near a prison?

Of course we wanted to find out more about how the UK truly feels about having prisoners as their neighbour. So, we surveyed 2,000 UK residents, asking them all about their attitudes towards having a home that is near a prison*.

Out of all 2,000 survey participants

Would not like to live near a prison : 43%

Would definitely live near a prison : 18%

Maybe ( would consider ) : 39%

Residents in the North West were the least likely to want to live near a prison, with 53% saying so. Looking closer, 53% of those living in Aberystwyth would definitely consider living near a prison – more than any other city. Considering the above we were curious to check just:

How often do people in the UK actually look to see if they will live near a prison?

Don’t actually check to see if a prison is nearby : 62%

Never thought of checking if a prison is nearby : 64%

Wouldn’t bother to consider it : 23%

Where in the UK do people check for neighbouring prisons most?

Wales : 25% of residents saying they always check if there’s a prison nearby when property searching.

East Midlands : 73% said they never check.

Sheffield : 78% of those living in Sheffield have never looked to see if a prison is nearby

Why wouldn’t you consider living near a prison?

The following where the most common answers and were recorded as follows :

Concerns of it affecting property value : 57%

Worries about prisoners escaping : 51%

Worries of high traffic due to visitors and shift changes : 39%

Concerns about safety and wellbeing : 40% ( due to inmates being released into their neighbourhood)

Concerns about their children’s safety : 38%

We wanted to find out a bit more – asking our survey participants what kind of category prison they’d be more comfortable living near and 34% said they weren’t sure.

However, surprisingly the majority of people would mind a high security prison the least! 37% said that a high security prison that houses prisoners who have been charged with (attempted) murder, manslaughter, (attempted) rape and more, would be preferable to a lower security prison.

Now let’s look at what other types of prisons are there and which ones were more considered by our respondents.

Other types of prisonWould consider living
Local or training prison35%
Open prison33%
Training or settlement prison36%

Those living in East Anglia were more likely to be happy living next to an open prison, 48% saying so. Meanwhile, Northern Ireland residents were the happiest living next to a high security prison after 64% said so – more than any other region. Meanwhile, 64% in Belfast and Cambridge said they would be happy living near a minimum security prison – more than any other city.

Of course, extra measures are taken to ensure that prisoners are held securely to maintain the lack of threat to the wider community. As attitudes and conversations shift focus, perhaps we’ll see less concern and more people closer to the institutions.

Bad neighbours

So what does this mean for the communities around prisons? While we’ve shared what happens to crime scenes in the UK in our Dark Past post, there’s no knocking down and starting over when it comes to living near prisons.

For the people of Ryde on the Isle of Wight, it’s safe to say that the Parkhurst escape made them feel incredibly unsafe in their own homes, especially as the escapees were found in a garden shed. 

The idea of living so close to prisons can be chilling though, especially as many are home to some of the cruelest and most notorious criminals the country has produced. While you can rest easy in the knowledge that the gates are firmly closed and security is tight as a drum, could you really rest easy at night knowing who your neighbours are?

Generally, you can expect to make a little less on a property near a prison, compared to a similar property elsewhere. You can also expect some loss in rental income.

However, if you are purchasing a property as an investment, there is a bright side. Much as you can expect to sell the property for a little less than the equivalent property elsewhere – you are assured of a much better deal when you buy it.

And if you’re looking to rent it out, there is a market not just for lower rents, but specifically for people wanting to live in those areas.

Firstly, you have the staff who work at the prison. There are nearly 23,000 prison officers in the UK, all of whom are looking for an easy commute to work, particularly as they’re likely to work shifts. They are also more likely to live there long term as it’s so much more convenient.

There are also the families of inmates to consider. Many criminals are not imprisoned near their loved ones, and no matter the length of the stretch, close family members like partners and children may find it easier to live nearby, in order to make the most of visiting days.

These tenancies may well vary based on how long the prisoner has been sentenced to and you would also have to consider the possibility of parole – how would you feel about an ex-con moving into your property upon their release?

Local crime rates

Unlike the hike in crime rates over the festive period, there is no current data showing that crime is higher in areas with prisons. But if there is a spike, it’s unlikely to have anything to do with the inmates! 

Unfortunately, prisons tend to be in poorer areas – there are no prisons in Chelsea or Westminster, for example! – and poorer areas tend to have higher crime rates anyway, which is no doubt something you and your potential tenants have already done your research on (and have fully prepared for with contents insurance).

A fact of life

Prisons are an unpleasant fact of life and as long as people continue to commit crimes, we will continue to need them. And those that work there and those that wish to visit inmates will always need a safe place to call home, no matter what their prison links might be.

It’s understandably a minefield and something to deeply consider before purchasing a property for rental in that area, as you cannot discriminate against those who may wish to rent from you. 

While you might be able to snap up a bargain in the shadow of the prison walls, it’s worth considering what it will actually mean for you when it comes to tenants and rental yield. As always – look before you leap!

One Poll surveyed 2,000 UK adults aged 18 and over between 15th and 19th of November 2021. 

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