Dartmoor Prison

by | Feb 19, 2024 | Christianity, Latest Post | 0 comments

Reading Time: 5 minutes

clear sparkling water from the hills seen from roadside coming down from our hotel to the prison.

‘Dartmoor prison’ conjures up in most people a desolate and lonely place surrounded by Wild Moors in this one of the most unspoiled areas in the country. It is given protected status for a reason. The prison itself is on the outskirts of Princetown. The population of Princetown, which is an ordinary enough town, with a population of somewhat less than 1500. When I read about it I felt that it was finally the time I went and had a look. Obviously we could not visit the prison itself but we attended the adjacent Museum which was an absolute gem, much historical information, and I reckon to be worth two or three hours of anyone’s time.

The curator and guest greeter is a mine of information and told us a story about a male prisoner who escaped by jumping over the wall. In fact in so doing he broke his leg and hid to recover behind a hedge for some time. He then crawled around the outside perimeter of the prison to the nearest house and banged on the door asking for attention, to be greeted by an off-duty prison officer who asked him what he was doing and promptly took him back to prison no doubt via the local hospital.

One of the most moving exhibits was a drawing by one of the prisoners, portraying Jesus Christ both being with friends and presiding at The Last Supper. I feel that the prisoner has really caught the compassion and ordinariness of Jesus without the holier than thou attitude that we are so used to seeing.

Apologies re quality. Poor light. Pixilation occurs when I overdo the contrast.

The Last Supper and Jesus with his disciples was painted by a prisoner in the early 1950s. This artistic prisoner was called James Wanmantle, and ex sailor otherwise known in prison as Jimmy the one. And associate of the notorious Cray twins and the Richardsons he was in and out of trouble for most of his life. These pictures were painted while serving a 10 years sentence at Dartmouth for violent robbery. He was born in popular, East London, during 1929 of a Chinese father and Greek mother and he died in or around 1980. The artist has superimposed the images of his fellow prisoners on the characters round the table.

I have taken far more photographs than can be accommodated comfortably on this site.

Here are some stats. As of the day of my visit there were 87,982 prisoners in England and Wales. The population of Dartmoor prison today is 516. The maximum capacity of Dartmoor prison is 689.  Here are some more facts about the kitchen. We have a team of seven staff working in the kitchen assisted by up to 35 Prisoners on a daily basis. We receive £2.30 per person per day to provide three meals and a supper item. We provide these meals seven days a week 365 days a year. We provide food for all religions, cultural and medical diets. Weekly we cook an average of 2,350 sausages so that is 122,200 per year which if laid down end to end would reach to Bedford Square in Tavistock. (so now you know – Ed.)

Another poster describes ‘The Need’. Children of prisoners are often the forgotten victims of crime. Parental imprisonment can lead to shame, guilt, isolation, often resulting in failure at school. Children with the parent in prison are three times more prone to mental health problems than their peers. It is difficult to maintain family Ties from behind bars. Visits can be expensive as more than half of prisoners are held further than 50 miles away from home and even more for women prisoners. Many prisoners don’t want their children to see them in prison, and phone calls can be expensive and difficult to arrange. In most establishments, prisoners are locked up for the night by 6 pm making family contact even more difficult. This was much worse during the pandemic as prisoners were locked up for 23 hours a day. Given the difficulties involved in keeping in touch, it is no wonder that family relationships can suffer immeasurably or break down altogether.

I did not know that the category of prisons, A. B, C, D, are not related to the seriousness of the crime but by the likelihood of escaping. Anyway I could go on forever giving you interesting facts but next time you’re in the area or even going down to the southwest I suggest you pop in and have a look. They are open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and then on Saturday. Charging is very reasonable. Under five pounds it was for each of us. When you visit, don’t forget there are rooms down stairs and to your right as you enter.  Princetown Yelverton Devon PL20 6RR  Yes there is a large car park adjacent.

Oh and before I leave, there is a funny (to me) Weather Forecasting Stone.

Francoise is holding the stone to the side so you can read it.

Tomorrow – the Amazing art gallery in Plymouth.



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February 2024



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