Inside The Sex Offenders' Prison


2015033120150405 (R4)

Film-maker Rex Bloomstein looks at how sex offenders are rehabilitated in HMP Whatton.

The documentary film-maker Rex Bloomstein gains unprecedented access to HMP Whatton in Nottinghamshire, the largest sex offender prison in Europe, to investigate how its inmates are rehabilitated for release.

There are now more sex offenders in the prison system than ever before - around 11, 000 out of a total prison population of nearly 86,000 in England and Wales. HMP Whatton, with its capacity of 841 prisoners, is a specialist treatment centre for sex offenders - 70% of whom have committed offences against children, the rest against adults.

Rex Bloomstein has been given a unique opportunity to explore the methods used to get prisoners to confront their offending behaviour and to prepare them to go back into the community.

The prison's governor Lynn Saunders describes Whatton as "a great leveller, prisoners come from all walks of life". Offenders against both children and adults are mixed together in the prison's many Sex Offender Treatment Programmes.

Candid interviews with prisoners are at the heart of this documentary as they reveal the impact of these treatment programmes.

But Bloomstein discovers a paradox. Many sex offenders feel intense shame and guilt about their crimes as society would expect - however, he learns that such emotions can be a huge barrier to the treatment process, as Whatton's staff work hard to restore offenders' self-esteem which is deemed crucial to their rehabilitation.

As the majority of Whatton's prisoners will be released, Bloomstein ultimately considers the issue of risk - how certain can we be that these men won't commit terrible crimes again?

Producer: Simon Jacobs

A Unique production for BBC Radio 4.