“A remarkable experiment in penal reform”: The beginnings of Leyhill Open Prison,1946.

Gloucestershire Crime History

In July 1946, Gloucestershire newspapers reported that “a prison without walls or locks” was to be opened in the grounds of Tortworth Court, near Falfield, in south Gloucestershire. During the Second World War, Tortworth Court had been requisitioned for military use, with the house being used first as a naval training base, then as a home for American servicemen, while a military hospital was set up in the grounds. After the war, the government decided to use the vacated hospital huts as an experimental prison, which would prepare carefully-selected inmates for their release back into society.

The concept of a “prison without bars” was not entirely new in the British Isles. In January 1912, a prison of this type opened at Camp Hill, on the Isle of Wight, and Wakefield Prison in Yorkshire opened a “prison camp” in its grounds in late 1935. The open system also had been experimented with at Gloucester Prison in 1944, with some inmates…

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