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24 September 2014

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You are in: Dorset > History > Local History > Portland's prison ship

HMP Weare

HMP Weare

Portland's prison ship

Portland was once home to the UK's one and only prison ship. It closed in 2006, but Britain's large prison population means that some still look to prison ships as a solution to overcrowding. BBC Dorset looks back at HMP Weare.

HMP Weare was sold off in 2006 after conditions on board were criticised by the Chief Inspector for Prisoners.

He complained that the inmates had no exercise and no access to fresh air. He said it was "unsuitable, expensive and in the wrong place". So Portland's prison ship – Britain's first and only prison ship – was closed down.

The ship was built in the 1980s as a barracks for troops, before being shipped to New York where it was used as a prison, before coming to Portland.

The 400-man prison was opened as a temporary measure in 1997, originally for a period of three years.

But after its closure in 2006 there was soon speculation that the government was thinking about buying the ship back.

It had already been sold to a Nigerian shipping company to provide accommodation to oil workers.

The problem was a prison population at record levels, up by 90% since 1993.

The advantage of prison ships, it was argued, is that they are cheaper to run, and can be bought more quickly.

Ultimately, it wasn't an option the government decided to go for, so HMP Weare remains the only example of a prison ship the UK has seen.

Leave your comment on prison ships. Are they good idea? Would you like to see them brought back into use?

last updated: 09/04/2008 at 16:24
created: 29/01/2007

Have Your Say

The BBC reserves the right to edit comments submitted.

Is the prison ship Weare now being used in Grimsby Dock to accomodate oil refinery workers?

worst idea ive ever heard, everyone you are wrong it will not work!!!!!

i just hope that some prisoners get sea sick!brilliant idea.

I believe that prison should be for murderers, rapists and child abusers. Then put all the other prisoners (drug offenders, theives e.c.t) in a high detension area.

I agree with Jody and Val - they should have a super prision set in the middle of nowhere and send all the prisoners there! Charlie, having lived on the island for most of my life (born and bred) it didnt bring as much revenue as the navy did.... its swings and roundabouts! I would prefer to see Portland as what it is and not an island for prisoners! Portlanders have had to live with the stigma for too long.... take the prisons somewhere else!

Prison ships are a good alternative to prison over crowding, but a better alternative would be to send criminals to countries such as India, and pay their goverments the going rate to look after these offenders on similar terms as we do with call centres. I feel sure they could help us with this problem and may be able to prevent prisoners re-offending

HMP Weare, when operational was a valuable asset in contributing to the local community by means of employment. It should be brought back into service immediately and additional ships would be most welcome.

Jody Collins
I dont think its a good idea for this part of the country. Maybe we could have a prison ship out at sea thats constantly floating away from us.

Portland's already got a huge prison and a young offenders institute - does it really need a prison ship too? Why doesn't the government build more prisons in other places that aren't as beautiful as ours?

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