Ongoing radon gas issues at Dartmoor Prison has meant inmates being moved to other locations, including HMP Channing Wood in Newton Abbot. It’s not known when the inmates will return. 

The move to transfer just under 200 prisoners from the facility was made after radon gas emissions were found to be above acceptable levels. 

Remedial works are being undertaken in two of the prison’s wings after high levels were detected despite previous work to increase ventilation. 

In a statement a Prison Service spokesperson said, “A number of prisoners have been relocated as a precautionary measure after routine testing revealed higher than normal levels of radon. 

“This is a temporary measure while work to permanently reduce radon levels is completed and there are no safety implications to staff or prisoners who remain on site.

“We regularly monitor levels of radon, and will continue to do this going forward. Work has been undertaken to improve parts of the prison and this will continue in the coming months.”

The pre-Victorian era category C prison at Princetown belongs to the Duchy of Cornwall and was built on a bedrock of granite which commonly has concentrations of radon, a naturally occurring gas. 

The Radon Council said, “It is good to note that Dartmoor Prison services have identified radon issues and are installing protective measures.

“Breathing in radon is the second largest cause of lung cancer in the UK resulting in over 1000 fatal cancers per year. Under UK regulations all employers must review the potential radon hazard in their premises.”

Phil Hutty, Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for the new constituency of Torridge and Tavistock said, “I know that old granite buildings are particularly susceptible to radon gas and that Dartmoor is a high risk area. I understand that radon can cause lung cancer so it is right and proper that this remedial work is undertaken for the sake of staff and inmates of the prison. I know this will cause capacity issues within the already underfunded and overstretched service but for the welfare of all, this work must be a priority.” 

Judy Maciejowska, Green Party candidate for Torridge & Tavistock said, ”The movement of almost 200 men from Dartmoor Prison is the inevitable consequence of the government’s starvation of funds for our public buildings, and for all our public services. It isn’t clear where these men are being moved to, or how they will be accommodated in already overcrowded prisons, but they will certainly put additional pressure on the desperate system.”

An unannounced inspection last year found that 92 inmates were doubled up sharing cells that were earmarked for one person, with the prison holding 684 which is above its intended capacity of 600, according to the Care Quality Commission. 

The report on the visit published last October also cited issues with the health care environment on the site not being ‘fit for purpose’.

The prison, one of the oldest in the country, was set for closure in 2021 but had a reprieve in 2023 before a new 25-year lease was signed for the site.