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D.3 The physical design and environment


  1. The Detention Centre Rules 2001 (the Rules) state that the purpose of detention centres such as Brook House is to provide:

“secure but humane accommodation of detained persons in a relaxed regime with as much freedom of movement and association as possible, consistent with maintaining a safe and secure environment, and to encourage and assist detained persons to make the most productive use of their time, whilst respecting in particular their dignity and the right to individual expression”.1

  1. This chapter considers how the environment at Brook House was influenced by its physical design, facilities and other decisions made by the Home Office and G4S. It was designed to the specification of a Category B prison and to hold detained people for a few days.2 This had numerous effects. It contributed to the harshness of the environment for detained people and the toxicity of staff culture, the undervaluing and under-resourcing of activities, and poor conditions inside detained people’s cells, particularly with regards to ventilation and sanitation. A humane and supportive regime appropriate for people in immigration detention was difficult to maintain, partly due to Brook House’s design to hold detained people on a short-term basis, which meant there was insufficient and inappropriate space for suitable activities. A decision by the Home Office in early 2017 to add beds for a further 60 detained people had a significant adverse impact on welfare due to overcrowding. The plan went ahead despite the obvious consequences and the warnings from Brook House staff, HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) and Mr Stephen Shaw, a former Prisons and Probation Ombudsman. 2


  1. Detention Centre Rules 2001, Rule 3[]
  2. A Category B prison is described as a ‘closed’ prison, having ‘a secure perimeter’ and “providing additional physical and procedural security suitable for managing those identified as presenting a greater level of risk” (Security Categorisation Policy Framework, Ministry of Justice and HM Prison and Probation Service, updated August 2021) []