Understanding Category A Prisons in the UK

Prison Info

Category A prisons in the UK are high-security facilities specifically designed to house prisoners who pose the greatest threat to the public and national security. In this article, we’ll help you understand what Category A Prisons in the UK are, including their function, procedures, and the unique challenges they face.

Classification of Prisons

  • Category A: These facilities house prisoners who pose the greatest threat to the public and national security. They are described as a “high-risk” group and include individuals convicted of grave crimes such as murder, rape, or terrorism.
  • Category B: These facilities are for prisoners who don’t require maximum security but are too dangerous or likely to attempt escape to be in an open prison.
  • Category C: These facilities are for prisoners who cannot be trusted in an open prison but do not have the resources or inclination to make a determined escape attempt.
  • Category D: Open prisons, where prisoners are trusted to serve their sentence without the need for security measures.

Characteristics of Category A Prisons

Category A prisons in the UK impose stringent security measures. In these facilities:

  1. Inmates remain within the facility’s perimeter at all times.
  2. Security measures are robust and include CCTV monitoring, secure cells, and a higher ratio of prison officers to inmates.
  3. Visits and commutation are strictly regulated, all visitations are supervised and communications are thoroughly checked for any illicit activity.

Current Category A Prisons in the UK

The UK currently has 8 prisons classified as Category A, they are:

  • Belmarsh in London
  • Long Lartin in Worcestershire
  • Manchester (Strangeways)
  • Full Sutton in Yorkshire
  • Wakefield in West Yorkshire
  • Whitmoor in Cambridgeshire
  • Frankland in Durham
  • Woodhill in Milton Keynes

Feature: Life in Category A Prisons

Life in Category A prisons is strictly regimented to ensure security. Inmates have a set schedule for meals, recreation, and work details, and free time is minimal. Opportunities for education and rehabilitation do exist, but the security measures can make access challenging.

Function of Category A Prisons

The main function of Category A facilities is to detain the most dangerous criminals securely, ensuring they serve their sentence without escape or causing further harm.


Category A facilities face a series of unique challenges such as managing high-risk individuals, maintaining a balance between security and rehabilitation, and managing the high costs associated with such high-security measures.

Understanding Category A prisons is crucial when studying the UK’s criminal justice system as they demonstrate our commitment to public safety while showcasing the realities of incarceration.

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