Revitalising the Past: Strategies for Prison Transformation in Older Facilities

Evelyn Woodland
Feb 27, 2024

The challenge of transforming historic prisons into modern environments poses unique considerations. In this blog, we look into strategic initiatives aimed at revitalising older prison facilities from the 2021 Prisons Strategy Whitepaper. From maintenance and renewal projects to enhancing accessibility and embracing digital innovation, these strategies envision a future where ageing prisons can meet contemporary standards and contribute to rehabilitation.

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Maintenance and Renewal

Over the next two years, a prioritised focus on projects ensures fire safety compliance for approximately 35,000 prison spaces, accounting for over one-third of the prison estate. This strategic initiative addresses a critical aspect of infrastructure enhancement, prioritising the safety and well-being of both inmates and staff.

Creating clean and decent environments is foundational to effective rehabilitation. Minor repairs, aesthetic improvements, and maintenance projects contribute to fostering a positive atmosphere within older prison facilities. Prioritising these aspects aligns with the goal of ensuring that the physical surroundings support the overall well-being of inmates.


Undertaking accessibility audits across the current prison estate marks a significant step towards identifying areas where retrofitting can be most effectively implemented. This initiative acknowledges the diverse needs of the prison population, ensuring that the physical spaces are adapted to accommodate individuals with varying abilities.

Recognising the prevalence of neurodivergent conditions within the prison population, with approximately half having suffered a traumatic brain injury and a significant percentage exhibiting learning disabilities or challenges, strategies for neurodiverse adaptations are crucial. This includes making provisions for individuals with autism and fostering an inclusive and supportive environment that considers the unique needs of each inmate.

Digital Innovation

Embracing digital and data transformation initiatives signifies a shift towards modernising the operational aspects of prison facilities. Implementing robust digital systems improves efficiency, security, and accessibility. From record-keeping to communication systems, this transformation ensures that prisons are equipped with cutting-edge technology to enhance overall management.

The integration of in-cell laptops and kiosks is a transformative step in empowering inmates with educational opportunities. Providing access to online learning platforms allows prisoners to pursue qualifications, develop skills, and engage in constructive activities. Additionally, these digital tools facilitate online services, such as ordering food, checking account balances, and utilising email services. By harnessing technology, prisons can create an environment that encourages personal development and prepares individuals for reintegration into society.

From prioritising fire safety and maintenance projects to ensuring accessibility for all inmates, and embracing digital innovation, these strategies collectively contribute to creating environments that are not only secure but also conducive to rehabilitation. As we navigate the complexities of prison transformation, these strategic initiatives aim to balance the historical significance of these facilities with the contemporary needs and standards of the criminal justice system. The vision is clear – older prisons can be transformed into spaces that promote safety, accessibility, and digital advancement, fostering an environment where individuals can rebuild their lives and contribute positively to society.

Join us for Modernising Criminal Justice 2024 on the 6th of June at the QEII Conference Centre in London. The event brings together the complete justice system, from arrest through to release.

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