A night in Brixton jail - yours for pounds 50

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The Independent Online
AS GUESTHOUSES go, it is certainly unusual. But A-Wing at Brixton high-security prison is unlikely to appear in a London travel guide and would probably only appeal to claustrophiliacs or obsessive followers of the television drama Prisoner: Cell Block H.

Nevertheless, the jail's governor, Mike O'Sullivan, is offering law- abiding members of the public a night in the slammer with the promise of "an experience no easily forgotten."

The 200 "guests" will be allocated single or double cells in A-Wing, which was recently refurbished and does not house any prisoners. They will eat their prison supper before being locked up at 10pm. They will be given a wake-up call at 6.30am (the same as the Brixton inmates) and after a prison breakfast will be released at 7.30am.

Mr O'Sullivan said the "unique event" was "part of our campaign to inform the public what goes on inside prison."

He added: "Society has consigned some of its members to prison. It strikes us as only reasonable that society - in this case, you - should be kept informed as to what goes on inside the prison's walls. We promise you an informative and fascinating experience, not easily forgotten."

The venture, set for 1 October, should also raise money for the Macmillan Cancer Relief charity. Each "guest" is expected to generate a minimum pounds 50 in sponsorship.

The 177-year-old jail is notorious for the break-out by the IRA men Pearse Macauley and Nessan Quinlivan in 1991, and a number of suicides. The regime has improved, but a report in March by the Howard League cited it as one of the most overcrowded, with 576 inmates and only 501 jail places.

News of the plan comes days after the release of a report by a House of Commons committee saying Britain's prisons were "full to bursting".

Bev Lord, of the Prison Officers' Association, said: "If this idea spreads, we could be having prison open nights every week. Our resources should be used for those who the public need protecting from."