Tuesday, 31 March 2009, 9:00PM on ITV1

In the last of the series, Holloway’s iconic status within Britain’s justice system comes into sharp focus as Holloway reels from the far-reaching impact of a story in a national newspaper about a Halloween party on the lifers’ wing, which has political repercussions as well as a profound emotional affect on senior prison staff and implications for the inmates’ Christmas celebrations.

We hear the story of a young inmate who is three months pregnant and desperate not to have her baby in prison.

And we meet Nicola again, who is in the segregation unit after setting fires in her cell.

Holloway is a controversial jail, rarely out of the spotlight. The public, on the whole, expect prisoners to be punished for their crimes.

But while satisfying that demand the staff must also show sensitivity in managing the behaviour and re-habilitation of the jail’s 500 inmates.

The Governor Sue Saunders has to walk that tightrope daily.

She tells the programme: “We’re a public service and we’re trying really hard to serve the public but it can be quite difficult to define what’s acceptable and what’s right and the balance between custody and care is quite a difficult one.

“Our purpose is to look after up to 500 quite vulnerable women and to do our very best to turn them away from offending.

“But we need to do that in a humane way. Ultimately, the test that we try to apply is if my son or daughter or somebody that I loved dearly ended up in this prison would I be satisfied that they were being looked after properly?

“And it can be a really difficult line to take to know what a reasonable member of the public would judge to be right. And I think in fairness we don’t always get it right.”

During the filming of this series a national newspaper published a front page story about a Halloween fancy dress party held in the lifer’s unit over a year previously.

The story has serious repercussions for both staff and prisoners, and involves the Justice Minister Jack Straw.

The Governor holds a meeting with some senior staff to discuss the newspaper story.

She asks for an explanation as to why the party was held.

Harriet Strickland, Head of Security tells her: “The morale on the unit had been quite low, it did create a real boost for the women and for the staff on that unit. It’s also really important for staff-prisoner relationships.”

Sue asks who decided on the theme of the party and Harriett tells her that she thinks the women themselves came up with it and that there was “nothing ghoulish about it”.

She adds: “It was just a standard Halloween party the same way that you would have at home with your friends or whatever.”

Sue Saunders tells the meeting: “So, just putting it in context I think what we’re saying is maybe we should have discouraged this particular theme and I will own that and try to present the arguments as to why.”

While Sue Saunders is dealing with this crisis, staff on the segregation unit are dealing with one of their own.

Nicola has been starting fires in her cell and has been brought to the segregation unit, where she has set another fire.

The Fire Brigade have attended the fire and as they leave a prison officer tells them: “Just to make you aware that the young lady still has a lighter so we might have to call you again. We haven’t been able to retrieve it.”

The programme asks why they cannot retrieve the lighter and are told it is because she has hidden the lighter inside her. A practice called ‘crutching’ in prison language.

Prison officers are not allowed to carry out an intimate search so they negotiate with Nicola to retrieve the lighter.

Nicola tells them that she will only give the lighter to a particular member of staff.

A prison officer tells the programme. ”It’s getting the balance between getting the lighter which is the most important thing but Nicola not dictating exactly what’s happening. It’s a bit like hostage taking. If you give in to demands then it encourages them to behave like that again.”

In the end Nicola is persuaded to give up the lighter in exchange for a cigarette.

Chris Jones Holloway’s Needs Analysis Director, tells Nicola: “You know you f*cked up 500 people’s weekends don’t you? You ground the whole prison to a halt. Other people didn’t get association. Other people had to get locked up. Consequences and responsibilities, mate. Sometimes just think about consequences and responsibilities.”

Harriett Strickland is still dealing with the consequences of the Halloween party. Fighting back tears, she tells the programme: “So many people are upset by this. The staff, the women, the Governor, the victims, the victims’ families. I don’t want to minimise it – it is an important issue, but when you think of the things that we’re battling with in prison. When you think of the huge mental health problems that as a service we’re trying to address with limited resources… When you think of, you know, all of those things that are actually a matter of life and death and I’m spending my whole day, it’s half past one, I’ve spent my entire day from seven o’clock this morning dealing with one photo that’s been published in the Sun.”

As Sue Saunders prepares her report on the Halloween party she finds out that Jack Straw has given a response to the press.

Sue is looking at a page from the Sun newspaper. She says: “This appears to be Jack Straw’s response to stuff going out in the paper. It says ‘Exclusive. Jack Straw bans jail parties after the Sun revealed that convicted women killers enjoyed sickening knees up.’

“…Holloway is a very sensitive political place. I mean I really hope we haven’t got it wrong. And I think honestly that this is some of the more difficult stuff that you cope with as a Governor.”

As she continues, the Governor is visibly upset. “Obviously I understand the sensitivities of this but… I think this is mostly about how if people wish to do so they can portray us as, you know, a holiday camp.”

It’s December and the fall out from the Halloween party story has put pressure on the prison management to cancel the usual festive celebrations.

Christmas is the time of year when self harm and incidents regarding discipline are at their highest. And the decision to cancel many of the usual festive activities hits the inmates hard.

Leila tells the programme: “It’s hard enough in here as it is not seeing your family and not allowed to do anything anyway. So it’s a punishment in itself and then now they’ve done this. They must think we have it easy in here or something, cos we don’t.”

Like many of Holloway’s residents, violence and criminality has been a way of life for Leila. A drug addict from the age of 11, she has been in and out of prison since the age of 16.

She tells the programme: “By the age of thirteen I was completely out of control on drugs. I was kicked out on the road, I was living in crack houses. Big men were trying to sleep with me for drugs. I started committing robberies to the point where I got shot in my arm, by a drug dealer for robbing him. He told me he wanted to sleep with me – so I took him back to a crack house, I handcuffed him to a bed and I started kicking him up and I took his drugs and left him there. And then I ended up in jail.”

Keeping her anger in check is even more important now, as Leila has someone else to think about. She is three months pregnant.

She is waiting on a decision by the parole board and hoping to be released before Christmas so she can be out of prison when she has her baby.

However, Leila’s temper gets the better of her and she has been sent to the segregation unit.

Leila explains: “They’re saying I assaulted someone. I wish I did lick off her head but I never and I’m p*ssed off that I’m down here for so long. They’ve given me loss of canteen for fourteen days, fourteen days loss of earnings, fourteen days loss of tobacco. So they’re making me give up smoking. I don’t wanna give up smoking. Why are they forcing me to give up smoking? Right now I need to smoke. Yeah I’m pregnant. But that’s worse for my baby if I’m being stressed out.”

Her last hope is to get a place on d4 -Holloway’s coveted mother and baby unit.

Here, well behaved inmates are allowed to keep their babies until they are eighteen months old.

But Leila is worried she’ll be refused a place on d4 because of her past.

In a final attempt to keep her baby Leila sees the head of d4, who knows her well.

Leila is told that social services will do a report and if they support her application, and she behaves, there is every reason she will be given a place on the unit.

She says: “So I won’t just be ruled out because of my past?”

The head of D4 tells her: “No. The only person that can make your past come up and bite you on the bum is you.”

Meanwhile, Nicola has been moved from the segregation unit and put to work as a cleaner – in a bid to keep her occupied and out of trouble.

However she is not happy about the job and tells officers she wants to quit.

She tells the programme: “I’m fed up with working, I’m fed up with this landing, I’m fed up with the f*cking officers on this landing. I wish I could get some gear.”

She is asked: “Really?”

Her response is: “Yeah I feel like a nice fat hit, I feel like to OD. I know it’s bad but I do. “

Chris Jones says: “If Nicola got out tomorrow she wouldn’t be able to hack it she wouldn’t be able to cut it. I think that’s part of the reason why she does what she does. She’s almost got this kind of desire to sort of stay inside.

“But if she keeps doing what she’s been doing, the serious sort of stuff like the fires and the assaults we need to start reporting it to the police.

“That will lead to prolific offender sort of status and she could be here for a long, long time.

“It is a truism, you can’t beat the system. You think you can, you’ll try to and you might kind of win the odd minor skirmish but in the grand scheme of things you can’t beat the system and you never will.”

Nicola starts another fire in her room and is returned to the segregation unit.

A prison officer tells the programme: “She’s like a boiling kettle. She goes up and then she comes down and she’s always laughing and joking so you never, you know … to me she puts on a masquerade. Inside I think she’s really angry but she doesn’t know how to live with herself and she doesn’t like people … even in adjudications, people have talked to her in an adjudication she won’t open up even in adjudications even though she knows she’s there for something she’s done wrong she won’t say why she’s got to that point. She’d rather just clam up and just take the punishment.”

Nicola faces adjudication for setting seven separate fires and assaulting a police officer.

The seriousness of the charges result in her being told the fires will be referred to the police.

Facing the possibility of a long prison sentence Nicola appears finally to have bowed to the pressure of the authorities and is out of segregation.

She says: “I made Mr Marshall Clark a card yesterday. ‘Thanks for helping me, like thanks for believing in me when I’ve been at my worst’ and like they’ve given me chance after chance after chance and this is actually my last chance. Now I’ve got to really start like giving them something back now. Do you know what I mean? They’ve gave me enough so it’s my time to give them something back now.”

The prison has decided that a concert in the prison chapel by the prison choir can go ahead, and rehearsals start for the recital, which will be attended by inmates and members of the public.

An inmate tells the programme: “The church is a really nice atmosphere at Christmas, they put all the candles… light all the candles and everything. It’ll be like a service on the outside really. They’ll have people come in from outside and I always love that ‘cos you get to meet other people that come in and people that don’t hate you, you know and don’t sort of judge you. They just see you as a human being and come over and chat to you and find out how you are. It’s nice.”

The women of Holloway have difficult backgrounds and life experiences and there are no short cuts when it comes to their management and rehabilitation.

Sue Saunders says: “I think it would be naive and unhelpful to think that to just lock people up and throw away the key is the answer. Unless we treat the women with humanity it’s very, very difficult to make them turn away from their offending behaviour.

“My hope for the women when they leave here is that the experience won’t have been a horribly negative one for them.

“The taking away of the liberty is the punishment.

And I do hope that they have met good staff along the way, who have role modelled good behaviour, who have shown the women respect and demanded it back.

“And that we’ve given them a menu of options which are there for the taking if the women want it to help them to move away from offending behaviour.”

Leila was told that if she behaves well for six months she may keep her baby in prison.

But Nicola did not respond to the prison’s overtures – and started more fires. She now faces the possibility of a lengthy jail sentence.


Tuesday, 24 March 2009, 9:00PM on ITV1

“I’ve got stability in here, I know where I’m going to sleep every night, I know when I’m going to eat, when that door’s locked I know I’m going to be safe, I know I’m not going to be kicked out in the middle of the night.” Kirsten

In this programme we meet Holloway’s youngest inmates. Their stories provide an insight into the pattern of criminality among young women and the way they deal with prison life.

For some, it is ‘Hotel Holloway’, a refuge among a surrogate family away from the turbulence of drink, drugs and violence on the outside; for others, it is an opportunity to learn lessons and ensure they do not return.

Aged between 18 and 21 they are kept separate from other prisoners. For many, prison provides the first experience of order in otherwise chaotic lives. A high proportion spent childhood in care; others witnessed or suffered violence and nearly a third experienced sexual abuse. By the time they get to Holloway 90 per cent of young offenders have mental health problems or addictions. They are also highly prone to self harm.

Holloway Governor Sue Saunders says: “I think there’s a strong belief that if only we can get the right interventions for young offenders they might be ripe to change. They’re young, they deserve a chance, they may not have had the best start in life and we want to provide them with some good role models, and teach them about boundaries which can be a big issue with young offenders.”

Charlotte and Katie are both inside for violent offences – they are best friends and work together on the wing.

Charlotte, 19, needed money for her drug habit and was caught trying to rob someone while carrying a knife. It’s her first time in prison. Katie has been in Holloway before. She is a heavy drinker with violent tendencies and was jailed for smashing a glass in someone’s face after downing ten pints of lager.

Katie tells the programme: “There are only two main rules on this wing: you don’t steal off each other and the other one is manners. Manners don’t cost anything, there’s no need for no manners. When you’re doing stressful stuff, like in the kitchen serving people’s food, and they’re saying, ‘I want this, I want that,’ it’s rude – don’t come to jail if you don’t like the way it’s done. Like if prison was tougher then obviously I would have been scared to have come back. It’s not tough – the only tough thing about it is not being able to see your family.”

Charlotte says: “Three times a day you get fed, right, you get perks like …it’s just easy, easy, you don’t need to do nothing for yourself. Do you know if I was an orphan I think jail would be the best place for me, because you’re like one big family here on the unit.”

She tells the programme: “Hotel Holloway, Sh*t Hole, Hotel Holloway. That’s what we all call it.”

There are about thirty young offenders on the wing, but as Holloway is a holding prison, they come and go all the time.

Like the adult inmates they are allowed to wear their own clothes. The regime is the same as well, providing a structure to their day. They are woken at 8 am and locked up at 8 pm, and, apart from lunchtime when they are confined to their cells, they are free to associate the rest of the time.

The prison offers them education which would improve their chances outside, but as many were excluded from school they would often rather go to the gym or for a swim in the prison pool.

The girls are encouraged to work, and most of the jobs on offer are neither easy nor glamorous. Those who do get jobs earn between seven and more than twenty pounds a week, those who don’t work receive two pounds fifty a week in prison unemployment pay.

The prison staff keep a close eye on the girls’ behaviour, and there are constant searches for drugs. The prison’s job is to impose discipline and when the prisoners misbehave they swiftly get locked in their cells. But then when the girls are locked up alone in their cells their cockiness is replaced by vulnerability.

Alexis, 19, has been locked in her cell for shouting at an officer. She has a history of cutting herself and self harms to relieve stress. While the officers deal with her the rest of the prisoners on the wing are locked up.

Alexis has smashed up her television set and the officers need to get into her room to check she is safe, but they also have to protect themselves. Assaults on staff in Holloway more than doubled last year.

Sue Saunders says: “Obviously when a number of staff have to go in, it’s very unpleasant actually to have to use control and restraint techniques on a woman and they don’t like to have to do that, and it’s very much a last resort.”

There are procedures laid down to protect prisoners and also to protect prison staff, so the officers wear protective clothing. When they go in Alexis is sitting quietly in her toilet cubicle – she hasn’t hurt herself and offers no resistance.

Alexis faces an adjudication hearing for smashing her television set. As she has smashed her television three times before, she will now spend the remaining 18 months of her sentence without a television. She is serving six and a half years for importing drugs, and is battling with depression. Like many of the women she experienced trauma as a child. Her life started to unravel when at the age of 13, her mother died.

Alexis says: “When she passed away I started drinking really hard, smoking weed every night, I just went off the rails, stopped going to school, I had nothing to live for. I ended up in care.”

Alexis points to a photo of her Mum and two younger sisters and says: “She was my rock, my everything, it’s just so hard because sometimes I think to myself she’ll come back and get me. And I think after six years you’ll be fine, but you won’t, people are like, ‘It will get better as you get older,’ but it doesn’t, I just don’t want to be here.”

Being in care is a common story among the women. Many have existed for years without real love and stability in their lives.

Tanya and Leigh have got together since they’ve been in Holloway. They are both in for violent offences.

Tanya: “It’s weird because I haven’t had a relationship like this with a girl before but out of all the men I’ve been with she makes me happy and I can talk to her and she doesn’t judge me, she likes me for me. The reason I’m in here is because of men. I’ve been in so much trouble with men over the years, they do my head in. I met Leigh and it was like something good came out of it. It just happened. Some people find the love of their life in jail.”

Away from the people she loves, Charlotte is feeling the pressure of prison life more than ever. She is hoping that her first stay in prison will be her last.

“I don’t want to be that person anymore who does something. I want to be this new person that my parents are proud to say, ‘That’s my daughter.’ And brothers proud to say, ‘That’s my sister she don’t solve it with her fist no more.’”

Charlotte still has 15 months to serve, and says: “I don’t think I can handle this every day, I’m going to end up doing something terrible soon.”

Eva comes from a stable family in Estonia and had never been in trouble before being arrested, aged just 17, for smuggling drugs into Britain. She is 19 months into her sentence and with another nine months to serve she is counting down the days to her release. “I haven’t seen my mum for 19 months and I feel it now. I miss her so much, I just want to go home and say sorry for them, sorry for everything.”

Eva has used her time in prison wisely. She didn’t speak a word of English when she was arrested, but has been studying hard to earn a number of qualifications and her good behaviour is about to pay off. She had applied to be released early by offering to be deported, an offer which has now been accepted. It means she will be a free woman and soon back home with her family.

But others aren’t so keen to leave. 20-year-old Kirsten is coming to the end of a four month sentence for being drunk and disorderly, assaulting a police officer and carrying a knife.

She tells the programme: “I really do like it here. I know it’s weird to say but I’m dreading going. I’m really upset that I’ve got to leave next week. I’ve got stability in here, I know where I’m going to sleep every night, I know when I’m going to eat, when that door’s locked I know I’m going to be safe, I know I’m not going to be kicked out in the middle of the night.”

Kirsten’s downfall has been alcohol. “I love my vodka, I drink loads of it. Even though I get really nasty on it, I drink loads of it. One minute I’ll be laughing and joking with you and the next minute I’ll want to beat the hell out of you for no reason, like it’s just got out of control.”

Kirsten will regularly drink a whole bottle of vodka, and now it has damaged her pancreas.

She reveals: “When I was 16 a doctor said to me he’d be surprised if I live till 18 because of my drinking.”

80 per cent of the girls on the wing have drink or drugs problems.

When asked what her demons are, Charlotte replies: “Drugs, even though I’m away from it, away from my dealers and all that, it’s still there. It’s still in my head.”

However tough these girls were on the outside, life in Holloway can still come as a shock.

Charlotte says “When I first came into prison I went nuts, I just thought I was going crazy. I thought I was having a breakdown. It’s just loneliness, pure loneliness. I’ve never been suicidal in my life, I’ve never thought like I would kill myself now, never had that thought, ever, but when I came to jail that is all I thought about, was I’m better off dead.”

For some inmates the experience of prison pushes them over the edge. The last suicide in Holloway was two years ago. In total, 12 women have killed themselves in British jails in the past three years.

All women at Holloway are viewed as vulnerable, but young offenders more than most.

In women’s prisons a staggering 70 per cent of the women self harm. Men are more likely to use violence on others to express their anger and frustration whereas women will turn it upon themselves.

Kirsten has been cutting herself at times of stress since the age of 11 and her anxiety about her imminent release becomes too much to bear. “Last night I cut my wrists and my arms so I’ve got to be watched constantly now. At least in here I know I can’t drink and can’t do the drugs , I can’t get back into that way of life where I go around stealing from shops, selling my stuff just so I can get a drink.”

Mark Landy, Head of Mental Health at Holloway, tells the programme: “What we find with lots of the women is that when they’re locked in cells of a night time they feel a terrible sense of abandonment and isolation and this reminds them of past experiences they had as children when they were left by their families or by the care system and they then relive this in the present day.”

At times on the young offenders wing it can feel almost like a party atmosphere – but the mood can change in an instant. A new girl on the unit has been found with a leather belt around her neck and has stopped breathing. She is given mouth to mouth resuscitation and thankfully starts breathing again. Her life was saved because of the quick action of the officers.

A prison officer is asked if they worry that they might be moments too late.

She replies: “There’s always that worry, but I think it’s about knowing the women. We knew she was on a downer so we were observing her anyway.

“It was noticeable that she was quite quiet and withdrawn, but it was a very, very, very lively loud night and we had so much going on, there wasn’t anyone to sit and hold her hand, perhaps, and I feel a bit bad about that, but there isn’t time always to do that.”

The prisoner was taken to hospital to recover, only to be returned to her prison cell later. Her story is tragically not unusual in Holloway. As a three-month-old baby she had been placed on the at risk register, as a thirteen-year-old she had gone into care, and at 18 is in Holloway.

Charlotte is being transferred to another prison. While her friends are sad to see her go, she is resigned to her fate, and remains determined not to go back to being a ‘bad girl’.

“I’m a lucky prisoner, a lot of the girls in here ain’t got no family, my family are there 100 per cent no matter what I do. If I can come through this a better person then I’ve made them proud. If I come out and I’m the same person I was when I came in then I’ve wasted my time. What was the point of coming here to go out and be exactly the same hood rat I was when I came in here?”

Kirsten is being released but she is highly unlikely to turn over a new leaf. She says to a prison officer, “Please don’t make me go.”

The officer tells her: “You’ve got to go, you’ll be back anyway.”

Kirsten says: “I’ll be back Monday.”

The officer tells the programme: “She likes it in prison. She’s got nothing on the outside, so what is there to go out to? And even Kirsten will agree she’ll be back. We are like family – there’s only so much we can do but there are people outside who need to do their bit. I think that’s where society lets them down, when they get released from prison.”

Kirsten tells the programme: “My dream was to be a care worker in a care home because I looked after my Nan when she was dying of cancer, so that got me into the path of doing it, but I can’t do that now ‘cos I’ve got a criminal record, it’s got assault on it. So now I’m going to carry on with the counselling on the outside, go on probation and get like a voluntary job in a kennels or something like that.”

When Kirsten is released she is met by an old friend, who she says will keep her on the straight and narrow. He has a present of some beer and vodka for her and tells the programme that she will only have a couple on the way home. Later that day Kirsten got drunk and was in trouble with the police ended up back in court.

She is not alone: within two years of being released from prison two out of three young people re-offend.


Tuesday, 17 March 2009, 9:00PM on ITV1

“Roof over the head, three square meals a day, gym, swimming pool, you can get your hair and nails done.” Chloe. 

“It’s the same old routine every time. You come to jail, come down here do the detox and when you get released you go back out and you do the same old thing again, and then you end up coming back in again, it’s just boring now, I don’t want to do it anymore.” Nicola 

Holloway prison, in North London, holds up to 500 female inmates and is the largest women’s prison in Europe. Incarcerated behind heavy security is a complete cross section of criminals, from petty villains and drug-addicted prostitutes to swindling fraudsters and high profile murderers. Many are seasoned re-offenders schooled in the ways of prison life. 

With unprecedented access, this brand new three part series follows the lives of the prisoners, prison officers, from Governor down, and medical staff, who make up this complex, noisy and disturbed community – in order to reveal the truth behind Holloway Prison. 

The documentary will afford viewers a unique and revealing insight into prison life and female criminality today and demonstrates the practical function Holloway serves in the lives of the inmates – from the fear it holds for the first time offender worried she is entering a real life ‘Bad Girls’ to the recidivists who use it as a refuge from their chaotic lives on the outside, or as a free drug rehab facility. 

Holloway’s population is transient, some are on their way to other prisons, others to and from court, some are lucky enough to be going home, but many are coming back. Over a half of women released from Holloway make the return journey. 

Up to 80 per cent of the inmates have drug issues and many have mental health problems and are unwanted by a society which has washed its hands of them. 

Holloway has no such luxury. “Our actual duty is not only to make sure these damaged women are held safely in our custody but it is also to make sure that they are treated humanely and encouraged to reduce their re-offending and successfully reintegrate back into society.” says Sue Saunders, Governor of Holloway. 

These three compelling films show staff facing this challenge, made all the more difficult by an intake of increasingly violent young offenders. 

Programme One 

The average stay of a Holloway inmate is just 45 days. It is a holding prison, defined by its transient population. Its function is to hold inmates on remand, or until they move to other jails. 

Repeat offenders also come through the gates with alarming regularity. Shockingly, the main reason for this is drugs. 

Every prisoner is seen by a doctor on arrival, and at times the scale of drug abuse is staggering. Most arrivals go straight to “Ivor Ward”, the prison’s specialist detox unit. So successful is its detox programme that some addicts trying to get clean are actually hoping to come into Holloway. 

May reveals that she has put herself in Holloway on purpose after applying many times for detox treatment and being told she is not a priority. She tells the programme: “I went out and committed the smallest crime I could commit which would give me the shortest sentence possible.” 

She wants to get off heroin for the sake of her five year old daughter, who she describes as her “inspiration” and “the most beautiful thing I’ve ever done.” 

May is serving a six week sentence and desperately wants to be drug free before her release. 

She says: “I want to be clean when I get out of here, I don’t even want to be on a tablet, a nurofen, anything. If you get released when you are still on Methadone you will use. I just want to be totally clean.” 

It isn’t only addicts who find life preferable on the inside. Chloe, 18, has anger issues, and struggles to cope on the outside. She is in Holloway for wrecking the B & B she was staying in. She is now homeless. 

Chloe is a familiar face in Holloway. We see her serving her fourth prison stretch of the year. She had been on the outside for just three and a half weeks before this stay, but admits she usually only lasts a week. 

She says of Holloway: “Roof over the head, three square meals a day, gym, swimming pool, you can get you hair and nails done.” 

The last time she was in Holloway, she created a trail of destruction including barricading herself in her own cell before being moved to the segregation unit for her own safety. 

After becoming involved in an argument she throws her dinner on the floor of the corridor and then floods her cell. Officers decide to take her to the segregation unit for her own safety; she will also be facing disciplinary action. 

In the segregation unit Chloe is about to face an adjudication for flooding her cell. She pleads guilty and is told she must stay on the segregation unit for seven days. Following this decision her behaviour deteriorates rapidly. 

In her cell, Chloe is attempting to choke herself using ligatures made from torn up clothing and bedding, continually forcing staff to come in and cut the ligatures off. This is a familiar pattern of behaviour. In the past she has kept doing this for hours, causing a constant strain on officers and resources. 

Governor Sue Saunders says: “Self harm generally is an attempt to hurt themselves because they don’t like themselves; sometimes it’s an attempt to shout out for help, to express their desperation. It’s a huge responsibility, not only keeping them alive but trying so hard to help them to change and to stop hurting themselves and reach out and get some help.” 

Sadly, the odds of staying clean and remaining out of prison are not good for many prisoners. Following their release many return to Holloway. 

For many addicts a stay in Holloway is a way to escape the chaos of their lives outside the prison walls. 

Nicola, 20, has done the Holloway detox a shocking five times. “It’s the same old routine all the time. Go to jail, come down here do the detox and when you get released you go back out and you do the same old thing again, and then you end up coming back in again, it’s just boring now, I don’t want to do it anymore.” 

Nearing the end of her three week sentence, Nicola decides to visit the prison hairdresser, so she looks nice for her dad when she is released. It’s the first time she has had her hair done for two years. 

The salon is run by a dedicated prison officer, assisted by inmates. It’s a subsidised oasis of calm, giving the women a rare taste of normality. 

Nicola is adamant she will stay clean on the outside. She tells the programme she will just stick to methadone, but admits: “I might have a little dabble here and there, but probably only once a month or something.” 

Nicola has reached the end of her sentence and is about to be released. Her future isn’t certain. She admits she is quite scared about leaving and “going back to the same old routine.” She says: “You can say you’re going to stop taking drugs…but as soon as you’re out of those gates it’s a different thing.” 

Lorraine, 41, is a new arrival at Holloway, and full of trepidation about what lies ahead. She tells the programme that she thinks prison will be “rough and horrible and full of drug addicts.” She admits she has come to that conclusion from watching Bad Girls on television. Lorraine, a mother of three, is on remand for three weeks, before being sentenced. She was found guilty of GBH. Her crime, running someone over and injuring them. She has never set foot in a prison before. 

Lorraine struggles to cope in Holloway. “Listening to these keys going every five minutes is doing my head in. I’ve got a thing about all different noises in my head. In my room I’ve got the TV going, there’s the radio going, then someone else with the radio on, with headphones but going full blast and the keys jangling every five minutes and I’m like my head’s ready to explode” 

As Lorraine returns to court for sentencing, she is scared because she knows she could get up to five years. She says that if it goes badly it will “hit her like a ton of bricks.” She receives eighteen months. 

Governor Sue Saunders says: “The message you try and convey to the women is that you probably wouldn’t choose to be here, but whilst you are here, for goodness sake make the best of it. The people who have a difficult time at Holloway are the people who rebel against everything, and eventually most of them have to come round anyway, because you can’t really buck the system, you have to get on with it. “ 

Back on the segregation unit, after three days of chaos, the prison staff have managed to calm Chloe down. She has even begun polite negotiations with the officers, by pushing written requests under her cell door. 

Prison Officer Dawn Bailey explains: “When she comes down to the unit we get the ligatures, the abuse and bad behaviour and when she starts calming down we get the sorry notes, that’s just her way.” 

When asked if she likes Chloe, Dawn says: “She’s alright, you do get to have a, not a soft spot, you try and work with them and get the best for them because that’s what we’re here for to support them and look after and care for them from here, so that when they get released that will carry on. “ 

Chloe is approaching the end of her 21 day sentence but has nowhere to go so Holloway’s resettlement unit becomes her last resort. The unit provides assistance with all aspects of life on the outside. 

Chloe is told she will be provided with some warm clothing, and the officer explains to Chloe that because they are still not sure about her housing situation, and she may be homeless, they will provide her with a tent and groundsheet. 

Housing Officer Kay Worley says of Chloe: “Nobody wants her, they won’t take the risk. Because she can’t get on with people in prison, she’s not going to get on with anybody.” 

Asked if Chloe may be in a tent at Christmas, Kay admits she could, and says: “Terrible isn’t it? In this day and age is that not terrible?” 

With her release date getting nearer, and fearing imminent destitution, Chloe’s behaviour deteriorates, and once again she starts trying to choke herself with ligatures.

Officers attempt to calm Chloe down and remove the ligatures from her neck. The officers need to move her to a different cell where she will be easier to manage, but this is a difficult and potentially dangerous exercise. Chloe hits out at one of the prison officers, leaving a raised handprint on the officer’s back. 

Senior Prison Officer Sharon Kelly says: “She’s not in the frame of mind at the moment for giving up, we just have to keep going….we will keep her alive and well. “ 

On being asked if she ever gets frightened of what Chloe will do to a member of staff or herself, Prison Officer Amanda Williams says: “No, what to herself? No, because I know that we can manage her. That’s what we’re trained to do. It is sad that she is so young and she is going out to nothing. But there’s nothing we can do, we’ve done everything we can and we can’t help her any more.” 

May is one week into her accelerated detox. She hopes to complete it before her release in a few days time. 

Like other prisoners she is wary of leaving Holloway’s care. “I’m kind of worried, Thursday they’re going to put me out of jail, its crazy because I want to be fully off it. I might as well do my detox here, get fully off it, get something good out of it. I’m constantly coming in so I may as well get something good out of it.” 

Accepting her fate, Lorraine is firmly embedding herself in Holloway life; she is even bonding with her cellmates. Lorraine has found comfort and security with her new friends. She soon learns that nothing can be taken for granted in Holloway. 

Nicola’s time on the outside was brief. After her release she missed her appointment with her probation officer after heading straight for the pub. She explains her swift return: “Half an hour it took me to go out and score some drugs, between leaving the gates and going home. I got done for suspicion of shoplifting and then ended up punching a police sergeant.” 

May is leaving Holloway without completing her detox, she must now ensure she resists temptation and completes it on the outside. She is currently on 15 ml of methadone. 

“When I get down to ten mil I know I’m going to be ill. I know what I’m like. It’s hard not to do it but I’m going to my mum’s. If I stay at my place I’ll be around the gear so I’ll just go straight to my mum’s.” 

Whether this is a one way ticket for May, only time will tell. 

Lorraine has had some bad news; she has to leave Holloway for a prison miles away. “They said I’m going to Downview but I’m not going nowhere. I’m not having my mum traipse down there and wait God knows how long for me to see my son. I’m not having it, it’s so wrong. You get settled in a place then all of a sudden they want to up and move you.” 

Lorraine protests to the prison officers but the prison is overcrowded and she has no choice. 

However, not everybody’s news is bad. Calm has descended on the segregation unit. Chloe has been told that she will be allowed to go and live at her mum’s. 

She has written a note to the prison officers apologising for her behaviour, she writes, ‘I am sorry for the harm I inflicted on you this morning, it was the wrong thing to do, you were doing your job, for the rest of the day and my sentence you shall not have to wrestle me to the floor any more. So again, I’m very sorry for the harm I caused you all.’

She is asked by the programme if she knows why she behaves the way she does. She says: “When I was little I used to be quite secretive, I didn’t speak very much to people I didn’t know … so it’s my way of saying, ‘Look, please don’t forget about me I am here.’ I don’t want to become the forgotten mute again. I’ve got to start admitting the truth so I can move on in my life. And don’t stay in the past.” 

Chloe needs to make lasting changes to her behaviour if she’s to avoid returning to Holloway for a fifth time. 

Nurse Tracy Welch tells the programme: “It’s a constant circle, release, outside, lack of resources, let down by us? And then she will commit another crime to come back to Holloway because she feels safe, it’ll either be one week, two weeks but Chloe will be back and then we start the whole cycle again.” 

In fact it was one week before Chloe returned to Holloway for a fifth time 

Nicola was sentenced to five months for assault. 

Lorraine was released from Downview Prison in February and is on a tag. 

May stayed clean and booked into a residential rehab.



  • BBC One
  • BBC Two
  • BBC Three
  • ITV1
  • ITV2
  • 4
  • E4
  • Film4
  • More4
  • Five
  • Fiver
  • Sky1