RETRO: Jail dubbed ‘Doncatraz’ admits first prisoners

HMP Doncaster Prison.
HMP Doncaster Prison.

It is 24 years since a new prison opened in Doncaster on Marshgate, as a local Category B remand facility on the site of a former power station.

Because it is built on land between two rivers, the Don and the Cheswold, it was dubbed Doncatraz, drawing parallels to famous island prison Alcatraz.

HMP Doncaster Prison.

HMP Doncaster Prison.

It was one of the first privately run prisons across the country, and so created a great deal of initial interest.

Run by Serco, the prison first housed 1,100 remand and sentenced young offenders and adult male prisoners in three houseblocks, each with four separate wings. This number then rose to a current 1,145.

As it is also a resettlement prison, Doncaster aims to ensure prisoners have the support they need after being released, and has seen success in this work.

Most of HMP and YOI Doncaster’s population comes from South Yorkshire, but it includes some young offenders from the West Yorkshire area.

prisonff    Doncaster Prisoners v Johnny Quinn Allstars at Doncaster Prison in aid of the Emlyn Hughes Cancer Appeal

prisonff Doncaster Prisoners v Johnny Quinn Allstars at Doncaster Prison in aid of the Emlyn Hughes Cancer Appeal

The prison has suffered some criticism and controversy. High levels of violence and low staffing were highlighted in a report three years ago. A social responsibility unit was introduced more recently, and is reported to have had a positive effect on the reduction of violence.

The prison has got involved in a number of community and charity projects over the years, including staff charity fundraisers, and a football match between the Johnny Quinn Allstars and prisoners, for the Emlyn Hughes Cancer Appeal in 2005.

Celebrity prisoners to have stayed in Doncaster prison have included former boxing champion Prince’ Naseem Hamed and Baron Ahmed, who were both convicted of dangerous driving.

Famous previous visitors have included Princess Anne and former Beirut hostage Terry Waite. Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay also visited to film an episode of his tv hit show The F-Word there.

Doncaster Prison..... A prisoner on one of the landing in the prison..See story Eileen Brooks

Doncaster Prison..... A prisoner on one of the landing in the prison..See story Eileen Brooks