Britain’s Notorious Prisons

2 of 2
Episode name:
Wormwood Scrubs
Transmission (TX):
TX confirmed:
9:00pm ~ 10:00pm

Week 03 2023 : Sat 14 Jan - Fri 20 Jan

Wed 04 Jan 2023

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Britain’s Notorious Prisons

Series overview

Britain’s Notorious Prisons reveals the reality of life behind the walls of two of the UK's most infamous prisons, Strangeways and Wormwood Scrubs.

Manchester’s Strangeways and London’s Wormwood Scrubs have housed some of the country’s most dangerous convicts, including serial killers, rapists and paedophiles.

Featuring exclusive first-hand testimony from past inmates and staff, this two-part series for ITV and ITVX uncovers what really goes on behind the famous prison gates, uncovering the drug abuse, violence and some of the biggest events in both prisons' histories. 

The two-part series highlights the past behaviour of some prison officers and the abuse of power, which had a detrimental impact on the running of the prisons and added to the hostile environments that prisoners became accustomed to. 

The programmes investigate a vast array of issues impacting the prisons including the overt racism in the seventies and eighties in Strangeways, extreme prisoner violence in Wormwood Scrubs, and the potential long lasting impact of covid on the prison system.

As we hear from those who lived and breathed the prisons over the decades, the raw, uncut stories need to be seen to be believed, as the shocking truth is explained and interrogated.

Episode 2:

Britain’s Notorious Prisons: Wormwood Scrubs

Second in a series of two documentaries about Britain’s Notorious Prisons.

Past inmates and staff speak exclusively to ITV exposing how London’s Wormwood Scrubs became one of the UK’s most notorious jails.

Former gangster and ex-prisoner Marvin Herbert, describes why the ‘Scrubs’ was infamous. He said: “Violence, problems, dramas. Scrubs was just agg, agg, agg.”

The jail has housed some of the country’s most famous inmates, from Rolling Stone Keith Richards to pop star Pete Doherty, whose jail term was mired in controversy after a secretly taken photograph of him reportedly taking drugs on the prison’s detox wing appeared on the front page of The Sun. 

Ex Security Governor, Vanessa Frake-Harris, said: “I just felt that he’d stuck two fingers up at the establishment. Any good work can be gone in a nano-second with a headline like that at your jail.”

From drug smuggling to mental health issues, the programme looks into the key issues Wormwood Scrubs faces on a day to day basis. 

Many of London’s major criminals have spent time in the Scrubs - including the Krays - whilst the prison has also housed some of the nation’s most dangerous serial killers, including the Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe and Donald Neilson the Black Panther.

Ex-prisoner, Noel ‘Razor’ Smith, said: “The Black Panther. They (the prisoner officers) used to threaten us with him. The screws could point over to that yard and say ‘you’ll be in there with him. Do you know how many people he’s killed?’”

The jail has also been notorious for its levels of violence. As with other prisons that serve the local courts, a volatile mix of prisoners can be stirred up by an unpredictable daily intake.

Ex-Wormwood Scrubs prison doctor, Amanda Brown, said: “I could deal with somebody that’s been smacked round the head with a snooker ball in a sock. There were times when it felt like a war zone.”

A Prison Service spokesperson said: “Recent independent inspections have found significant improvements at HMP Wormwood Scrubs – with violence and self-harm continuing to fall – we have invested £100 million in security like X-ray body scanners over the last three years to stop drugs and phones entering prisons.”

According to the Ministry of Justice, between 2020 and 2021 there were 54,027 self-harm incidents, involving 11,292 individuals, in England and Wales prisons. 



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