It inspired a controversial gangster rap album illicitly recorded inside its walls. It’s also known as Britain’s Guantanamo Bay and Hellmarsh.
HMP Belmarsh is an institution that casts a big shadow over British justice. Yet, despite those daunting monikers and damning reports of its conditions, it actually stands apart from most of Britain’s well-known prisons in that it is a relatively ‘modern’ building.
The other fortresses housing the nation’s most dangerous offenders are relics from Victorian times such as HMP Dartmoor in Devon, HMP Pentonville in North London and HMP Barlinnie in Glasgow.
Belmarsh, in contrast, was opened in 1991 and was the first new men’s jail built in the capital for more than a century. It’s located in a historic part of South-East London, the former Royal Arsenal, where all the British armed forces’ munitions were once manufactured, and is also minutes from the famous River Thames.