The penal system in Barbados was developed through the demands and requirements of the plantation system established from the seventeenth century by the British Empire. During slavery (1650-1834) a number of plantations were used as prisons or places of confinement and were commonly known as workhouses or lock ups. (Carter, 1994). These plantation prisons were used mainly for the imprisonment of slaves who were found guilty of the many offences on the plantation. In 1730 The Town Hall Gaol was built and in 1735 permission was granted for all prisoners to be transferred to this facility. In addition to it being a place of confinement for civil and criminal prisoners, it served in wartime as a detention center for prisoners-of-war. The Gaol had the potential for a capacity of 250 offenders. As in most prisons, it often held many more than its potential capacity and this resulted in overcrowding. By 1848 prison conditions deteriorated and due to overcrowding, there was a need for additional accommodation and the new Houses of Corrections were created.
The legislative in Barbados with the Governor’s approval created about five (5) Houses of Corrections in 1841, which were situated at the various district police stations. These Houses of Corrections were not actually occupied until about 1842 and functioned as a supplement to The Town Hall Gaol. The Town Hall Gaol was, finally closed on humanitarian grounds on November 23, 1876, by order of the then Governor, Sir John Pope-Hennessy.
The Legislature recognized in the 1840’s that the other penal institutions such as the common jail and the Houses of Corrections were inadequate for their purposes.
In 1853 a new prison was built on eleven (11) acres of land at a cost of £25,000. On Wednesday 2nd March 1853 the corner stone for the new prison Glendairy was laid by his Excellency Sir W.G. M. William Colebrooke, Governor for the Windward Islands.
The initial buildings consisted of seventy-two (72) separate cells with work rooms, a chapel, the governor’s residence and the warder’s residence. Glendairy Prisons was created as a modern prison and which would allow for a proper system of prison discipline. By 1870 considerable expansion was carried out at Glendairy Prison. A second structure for females was erected with cells and residence for a matron, assistant matron and female warders. Glendairy was divided into two parts separated by a wall and a gate. In one part, there was accommodation for 275 male prisoners and in the other, accommodation for 125 females.
Her Majesty Prisons (Glendairy) being the sole prison facility in Barbados housed up to 1000 offenders inclusive of males and females. This was until the rioting of inmates and fire destroyed the structure on March 29th and 30th 2005. On 1st April 2005 all offenders were transported to varying locations designated as temporary prisons located at Harrison Point, St. Lucy; Six Roads Industrial Complex, St. Philip; St. Ann’s Fort The Garrison, St. Michael and District “E” Police Station, Holetown and Speightstown. After spending a period of two (2) weeks at the various locations, all offenders were eventually transferred to Harrison Point Temporary Prisons for housing.
The Government of Barbados constructed a new prison facility on twenty five (25) acres of land located at Dodds, St. Philip. This new facility H. M. Prisons Dodds was completed by September 2007 with a capacity of a 1250 inmates, with medical and segregation accommodations incorporated. H. M. Prisons ‘Dodds’ allows for vocational, educational, industries training, provision of medical services and trains all offenders with a commitment to rehabilitation in a safe environment.