Inside the seven North East prisons and criminals past and present

Killer nurse Lucy Letby was earlier this week sentenced to a whole life order after being found guilty of the murder of seven babies, as well as the attempted murder of six more, while working as a nurse on the neonatal unit of the Countess of Chester Hospital between 2015 and 2016.

She became just the fourth female to ever be given the UK’s strictest sentence – which is reserved for serial killers and child murderers.

It is thought that the 33-year-old will serve her sentence at HMP Low Newton in Brasside, County Durham – a prison in which Peterborough murderer Joanna Dennehy currently resides, Rose West has served at, and Baby P mum Tracey Connelly was recently released from.

There are seven prisons in total across the North East of England – holding a range of criminals both convicted and waiting trial for a whole host of offences, from petty theft to horrendous crimes like rape and murder. Each of the prisons has a category with prisoners being sent to a particular jail dependent on the severity of their crime and their associated risks.

Read more: Life in HMP Low Newton – the Durham prison where Lucy Letby will serve her sentence

Here, Chronicle Live breaks down each of the North East’s prisons, their history, and the most notorious criminals of past and present.

HMP Frankland

  • Location: Brasside, County Durham
  • Category: High-Security prison holding Category A, Category A High Risk and Category B adult males
  • Capacity: 850

Opening in 1983, HMP Frankland is one of the UK’s highest-security prisons – holding convicts over the age of 21 who typically have sentences of four or more years. It also has a specialist Dangerous and Severe Personality Disorder (DSPD) unit, which was opened up in 2004.

It has an educational facility within, with workshops in furniture production at the forefront. There is also a library and gym which is open to support learning and recreation.

Dubbed ‘Monster Mansion’, many of the inmates have been convicted of vile crimes like murder, sexual offences and even terrorism. Some of Frankland’s most notorious prisoners at present include Lee Rigby murderer Michael Adebolajo, Soham killer Ian Huntley and Levi Bellfield, who killed Millie Dowler, Marsha McDonnell and Amélie Delagrange.

Previous convicts include Peter Sutcliffe, Harold Shipman and even Charles Bronson.

HMP Low Newton

  • Location: Brasside, County Durham
  • Category: Maximum-Security closed prison for females and young offenders
  • Capacity: 336

HMP Low Newton sits adjacent to the aforementioned Frankland prison, and is a closed security facility holding female prisoners and young offenders. It was opened up in 1965 as a mixed remand centre for 65 males and 11 females – but has changed to strictly females over the years.

Like Frankland, Low Newton is also home to the specialist Dangerous and Severe Personality Disorder (DSPD) unit where the ‘Primrose Project’ is hosted. It’s the only women’s prison spanning the UK with such a unit. The prison has its own clothing shop where inmates can purchase goods, and they are allowed to decorate and personalise their own cells.

Lucy Letby becomes the latest lifer to arrive at HMP Low Newton, but there are a number of other females who have been given whole life orders who reside in the Brasside jail. Joanna Dennehy currently also resides in HMP Low Newton. She was jailed for the murder of three men in Peterborough back in 2013, while Rose West was also once an inmate.

Tracey Connelly also previously served time at the prison before her recent release for admitting, causing or allowing the death of Baby P, while Sharon Carr – Britain’s youngest female murderer – also served time in Durham.

HMP Durham

  • Location: Durham city centre
  • Category: Category B adult male
  • Capacity: 980

Sitting within Durham city centre is the Georgian era HMP Durham. Built in 1819, the prison continues to run under His Majesty’s Prison Service. It used to accommodate both men and women, but moved to all-male in 2005.

Today it is mainly used as a Reception prison, holding remanded adults and young men. It comprises of seven secure units, as well as a segregation section and a healthcare section. It offers inmates part-time education on the likes of bricklaying, woodwork, painting and decorating, waste management and gardening.

Inmates at HMP Durham over the years include David Boyd, Raoul Moat and Ronald Kray.

HMP Kirklevington Grange

  • Location: Kirklevington, Stockton-on-Tees
  • Category: Category D adult male and young offenders
  • Capacity: 283

Kirklevington Grange is a resettlement prison for those who fall under Category D, and are nearing the end of their sentences and are intending on returning to the North East after serving time. Accommodation at the prison comprises of single cell rooms with privacy locks.

The prison aims to prepare inmates for release, and prisoners are able to take up day release as they near the end of their sentences – while also working out of the prison in full-time jobs and voluntary community work.

Former Watford and Gateshead footballer Andy Ferrell once served a four year sentence in Kirklevington Grange for conspiracy to supply class A and B drugs.

HMP Northumberland

  • Location: Morpeth, Northumberland
  • Category: Category C adult male
  • Capacity: 1,348

HMP Northumberland was formed in October 2011 as a result of a merger between HMP Acklington and HMP Castington. It was passed on from HMPS to Sodexo in 2013. Rehabilitation services, resettlement programmes, behaviour programmes, education and skill development, vocational training and workshops are all at the forefront of the prison, in which up to 1,348 adult males can reside in.

HMP Deerbolt

  • Location: Barnard Castle, County Durham
  • Category: Category C Training Prison
  • Capacity: 513

Deerbolt was initially opened up in 1973 on the site of a former Armed Forces camp – now serving as a Category C Training Prison. Generally, prisoners who are sent to Deerbolt will serve sentences of up to four years in length, and will be from the North East and Humberside area.

Full and part-time education classes on music, art, drama, creative writing, geography, maths, history and ICT are on offer at Deerbolt, while those who have basic literacy and numeracy can take up workshop jobs. Courses at the prison include catering, office skills, building computers, bricklaying, plastering, charity workshop, furniture craft, motor mechanics and fork-life driving.

The prison also has a gym – offering PE qualifications, as well as for recreational use. Other facilities include a library and chaplaincy.

HMP Holme House

  • Location: Stockton on Tees, County Durham
  • Category: Category C Training and Resettlement prison for adult males
  • Capacity: 1,211

Opening in 1992, Holme House is now a Cat C reform prison holding adult male prisoners. Accommodation comprises of self-contained residential communities, including a drug therapy community and one for vulnerable prisoners. It hosts a mixture of single and double cells, with integrated sanitation and community wash facilities.

Work areas include laundry, woodwork and furniture assembly – with NVQs available to achieve in related fields.


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