HM Prison The Verne

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HMP The Verne
File:Uk dor verne.JPG
Built on the highest point of Portland, the Verne is surrounded by cliffs and a moat, with two entrances - one via a footbridge and one via this tunnel
Location Tophill, Portland, Dorset
Security class Adult Male/Category C
Opened 1949
Closed 2013
Managed by HM Prison Services
Governor James Lucas
Website The Verne at
File:HMP Verne.jpg
View of the moat and western cliff from the south west.

HM Prison The Verne was a Category C men's prison, located within the historic Verne Citadel, on the Isle of Portland in Dorset, England. It was operated by Her Majesty's Prison Service, and occupied the southern part of the citadel. The prison was converted into an Immigration Removal Centre, which opened in March 2014. However the Verne officially remained a prison until September 2014.


The Verne Prison opened in 1949 within a former military citadel, which had been built between 1857–81, and designed by Captain W Crossman of the Royal Engineers, enclosing 56 acres to defend Portland Harbour. The Verne Citadel became a prison in 1949, while HM Prison Portland had become a Borstal Institution by this time. On 1 February 1949 an advance party of 20 prisoners arrived. The prison largely occupied the southern part of the citadel. Since becoming established the interior of the prison was substantially rebuilt by prison labour, and the modern prison, a Category C prison for adult males, gained a considerable training programme for its prisoners who were serving either medium and long term sentences, including life sentences.[1]

Allowing a form of public access for the first time, in November 2011, the prison service, opened a cafe in an old officer's mess building within the citadel. The Jailhouse Cafe continues to operate to date, offering experience to prisoners in attempts to reduce reoffending. It today uses prisoners on day release from HM Prison Portland.[2]

On 4 September 2013, the Ministry of Justice announced the decision to convert the prison into an immigration removal centre for 600 detainees awaiting deportation.[3] The prison closed in November 2013, with all prisoners being transferred to other suitable prisons, and work to change the function of the prison began immediately. The planned re-role came as part of a wider programme to modernise the prison estate, and the nearby HM Prison Dorchester would be closed in December 2013.[4]

With a set opening date in February 2014, it was instead announced in March 2014 that the immigration removal centre plans were officially put on hold until September. However, the Prison Service announced that the empty prison will still begin to take on immigration detainees that month, and will still remain known as HMP The Verne. It began holding detainees from 24 March 2014.[5]

Inspection reports

The Verne was an open-style prison with walls but work has been undertaken in recent years to strengthen the perimeter. It has been praised as an effective jail but various aspects of its work have come in for criticism.

In November 2005, an inspection report from Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons criticised The Verne for weaknesses in its anti-bullying and suicide prevention policies. The report stated that safety at the prison had "deteriorated significantly" since its last inspection, and that the needs of foreign national prisoners were not being met. However the report said that the prison had made progress in improving its training provision for inmates, and work to prepare prisoners for release had also improved.[6]

During 2008, the prison was criticised to such an extent for not meeting the needs of inmates that Chief Inspector of Prisons Anne Owers believed the best option would be to turn it into a centre exclusively for foreign prisoners.[7] However, in recent years the prison had been praised as an effective prison which needed to develop better employment and resettlement opportunities. The inspectors found that there were low levels of violence, good staff-prisoner relationships, and that the Jailhouse Café was a successful social enterprise.[7]


  1. Information board outside Verne Citadel Southern Entrance
  2. "About". Jailhouse Cafe. Retrieved 2014-04-20.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Danny Shaw (2013-09-04). "BBC News - Prisons to close in England as super-prison site revealed". Retrieved 2014-04-20.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Prison announcement: HMP Verne will change to immigration removal centre". Dorset Echo. Retrieved 3 October 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Portland's HMP The Verne to remain a jail". BBC News. Retrieved 3 October 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Safety 'deteriorated' at prison". 2 November 2005. Retrieved 2009-02-01. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Portland prison set to become detention centre for illegal immigrants". Dorset Echo. Retrieved 3 October 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

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