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Is Hard Cell’s HMP Woldsley a Real Prison?

‘Hard Cell,’ created by Catherine Tate, is a British comedy-drama TV series available on Netflix. It takes the guise of a mockumentary and focuses on life at HMP Woldsley, an Essex women’s jail. When Governor Laura tries to instill some creativity in the inmates by having them put on a stage musical, she has no idea of the humorous problems she would face in order to keep things running smoothly.

Meanwhile, the quirky convicts quickly join in and begin rehearsals, all while dealing with their own delicate interpersonal relationships on the side. The show’s realistic depiction of the prison system is placed against the genuine backdrop of HMP Woldsley, leaving viewers wondering if it is an actual prison. Let’s learn more, shall we? WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD.

Is HMP Woldsley a Real Penal Institution?

Contrary to popular belief, HMP Woldsley is not a genuine prison. To generate plausible graphics of a real-life correctional facility, the show was most likely shot in a studio or an old jail in London. Furthermore, many of the physical features featured in the show are extremely close to actual ones, such as the prison yard where the inmates play basketball, the cells where they live, and the cafeteria, which plays an important role in the story. The visiting room for the convicts’ loved ones has also been faithfully reconstructed.

Is Hard Cell's HMP Woldsley a Real Prison? - ThiruttuVCD

Furthermore, many of the challenges encountered by the characters reflect the reality of life in prisons, such as sanitation and hygiene issues, financial mismanagement, bullying and violence among convicts, and the unappealing food offered in the prison. According to a July 2017 Time magazine story, female offenders face various obstacles while incarcerated, including a lack of menstrual products, inadequate mental health services, and assistance for their children.

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Charlee in ‘Hard Cell’ does not want to raise her newborn kid in the prison because of the same issues described above. Furthermore, when a plumbing problem cuts off the water supply in season 1 episode 2, the inmates turn to desperate tactics for basic functions like as bathing and excrement, illustrating the survival drive that prison life can instill in people. Aside from that, the play rehearsals depicted in the show are inspired by many such prison arts programs that take place around the world to help offenders rehabilitate.

Cheryl Fergison, who plays herself in the act, visits HMP Woldsley to direct the musical. She also visits prisons to assist with inmate rehabilitation and conducts theatrical workshops for jailed inmates. However, many components of the show are exaggerated for comic effect. For example, the guards’ refusal to manage the convicts’ disorderly behavior and Laura’s laid-back demeanor as governor do not reflect genuine prison conditions.

To summarize, while the prison in ‘Hard Cell’ is not based on any existent one, it is an accurate fictional replica of women’s correctional facilities. The scenario and the scenery were created based on the creators’ observations of real female penitentiaries.

TV Status: Returning Series

Duration: 25 min


TMDb: 4.8


Is Hard Cell’s HMP Woldsley a Real Prison?
Is Hard Cell’s HMP Woldsley a Real Prison?
Is Hard Cell’s HMP Woldsley a Real Prison?
Is Hard Cell’s HMP Woldsley a Real Prison?
Is Hard Cell’s HMP Woldsley a Real Prison?
Is Hard Cell’s HMP Woldsley a Real Prison?


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