The prison was finally returned to civilian use in 1966. It was initially used to house prisoners who, for their own protection, could not be housed with 'run-of-the-mill' prisoners, and also well-behaved first offenders.
The gallows in the execution block was removed in 1967 and the room became the prison library.
In 1973, the prison changed role and became a training prison for men serving sentences of less than four years. The aim was to provide the inmates with the education and skills necessary for them to become productive members of society after their release. There were now about 260 prisoners who worked in a range of workshops, including plastic moulding, tailoring and scrap metal recovery. Some also worked outside the prison (some unsupervised), for example in the local Park or Churchyard, on local farms or at the Babycham brewery.
In the 1980s, the prison held prisoners who had been in prison several times before and had not reformed. Around this time the population continued to be 260 living in accommodation designed for 169.
In 1991, Shepton Mallet took its first category 'C' life prisoners – those nearing the end of their sentences. The maximum number of prisoners to be held in the prison was fixed at 211.
In 1992, the then Chief Inspector of Prisons, Judge Stephen Tumim issued a report which said:We doubt that Shepton Mallet Prison has a future in its present role and are aware that the total population could be absorbed into vacancies at other category 'C' establishments in the area. If the prison is to continue it requires a clear function or set of functions which match the physical resources. —HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, 1992
Shepton Mallet became the first category 'C' second-stage solely-lifer prison on 1 August 2001. It had an official capacity of 165, but in June 2010 was holding 188 prisoners, with arriving prisoners having to share cells for up to a year. It was divided into four wings:
- A wing – 37 spaces
- B wing – 94 spaces
- C wing – 43 spaces
- D wing – 15 spaces
An inspection report on the prison was issued following a full announced visit by inspectors from HM Chief Inspector of Prisons carried out in June 2010. The introduction to the report described the prison as:This very positive report ... is testament to the benefits that can flow from having a small-scale niche prison with a settled population. Despite its ageing physical environment, the prison was a very safe place, with positive staff-prisoner relationships, a reasonable amount of activities, and a strong focus on addressing the serious risks posed by the population. —HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, June 2010
The report commented in particular on the very good relations between prisoners and prison officers, and the low levels of self-harm, bullying, violence or drug use. Whilst the Inspectors said that the accommodation was "old and tired", they felt that it was adequate for the current number of prisoners. However they were concerned by proposals in increase the population by 70 prisoners.
Read more about this topic: Shepton Mallet (HM Prison)
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