Derwentside (formerly Hassockfield) is the main detention centre for women in the UK.

Derwentside is in County Durham in the North-East of the UK. The Government started detaining women at Derwentside just after Christmas in 2021.

The detention centre has capacity for 84 women to be locked up at any one time and replaced Yarl’s Wood as the main site where women are detained for immigration purposes.

Until September 2023, Derwentside was run by Mitie. It is now run by Serco.

Inspection report findings

Recent inspection reports by HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) have highlighted extremely concerning findings at Derwentside:

Suicidal feelings

In their December 2022 inspection report, HMIP found that nearly one in five of the women they spoke to in Derwentside had felt suicidal at some point, and over two-thirds said they had felt depressed.

HMIP report

Inconsistent care

Yet, those ‘at risk of self-harm or suicide did not receive consistent and well-organised care’.

Male guards

Male Mitie guards were found to be carrying out ‘constant supervision’ of women there, despite the fact that this practice had been banned by the Government in 2016.

Use of force

An extremely concerning ‘use of force’ incident was documented, during which a 38-year old woman was restrained by Mitie staff using ‘unapproved and risky techniques, particularly around the head and neck area’. During this incident, ‘an officer and senior manager were overheard to make derogatory remarks’ about the woman.

Violence and racism

This distressing incident was witnessed by other women in Derwentside and was also documented in the June 2023 investigation by Liberty Investigates and the Sunday Mirror, which highlighted ‘horrific levels of violence and racism’ among Mitie and Serco staff.