Prison opens up its cells
By Jo Deeks on Thursday, 26th August 1999.
THE prison once dubbed "Hi-de-Highpoint" for its holiday camp reputation for security is opening its old cells to paying guests.
For £35, people can enjoy the privilege of spending a night in a converted cell at Highpoint Prison and even get porridge for breakfast.
The idea to convert Stirling House, the former RAF Officers' Mess building on the prison complex at Stradishall, near Haverhill, to a conference centre is the brainchild of Roy Woolford, the prison governor.
Five prisoners will work as housekeepers at the centre, with another as a receptionist and others in the kitchens.
Male prisoners have made the quilts and curtains in the prison workshop, and towels in the bedrooms with Highpoint stitched onto them could become collectors' items.
Mr Woolford expects the centre to produce an annual income of around £400,000 when it is fully operational, which will be ploughed back into the prison.
So far, 24 en-suite bedrooms have been created, with another 24 being worked on by prisoners and staff, from former cells when the building was used as an open prison.
A team of around 13 female prisoners have completed the carpentry, decorating and plumbing work involved in the conversion work over the last 18 months, with the only cost being £30,000 for materials.
The centre is expected to produce a profit of £40,000 to £50,000 in its first year alone.
"It is a quality product, we provide an excellent service and the prison becomes much more economical to run," Mr Woolford said.
"The prisoners are getting their training and there are no losers. As far as we can see everybody wins."
Produce for the kitchen is grown in the prison garden, creating more work for prisoners, and it even has its own Governor's Reserve house wine.
Mr Woolford said they were also preserving an important part of the history of the former RAF Stradishall base and the local RAF Society had helped recreate the former officers mess as authentically as possible, providing a painting of a Stirling bomber and authentic regimental tapestries.
Stirling House is outside the fenced secure areas of the prison, but Mr Woolford said he had no fears about security.
Picture caption: Prison's cell point . . . inmates Bella and Angie add the finishing touches.
Comment on this story
You must be logged in to post messages. (login now)