Mark Leech

Britain’s Leading
Ex-offender Expert
on Prisons

“The sanest, best-informed, commentator on prison issues” 
Phil Wheatley CB, former Director General of the National Offender Management Service and former Director General of HM Prison Service

“I consider myself very lucky as Director General to have had you around, your place in penal reform is unparalleled, and I consider you not only as a colleague but also as a friend”
Sir Martin Narey, first CEO National Offender Management Service, former Director General of HM Prison Service, now adviser to the Secretary of State for Justice

“Focused, tenacious, committed, Mark’s experiences have given him answers to questions other experts can only guess at”
Baroness Scotland QC, Attorney General for England and Wales


Mark is the Editor of:


Mark Leech was born in the City of  Manchester, England, in October 1957.

At the age of eight, on the death of his mother, Mark was taken into ‘Care’ where for four years he, along with many others, suffered serious sexual abuse in what became known as the Cheshire Child Care Homes Scandal for which officials were later jailed; the abuse created in Mark an angry young man with a deep-rooted distrust of anyone in authority.

Like many Care-leavers he later became involved in crime serving 14 years in a prison career that was characterised by rooftop protests, riots, assaults, and over 40 successful legal battles against the prison authorities fought in every legal arena from the County Court all the way to the House of Lords, where he changed British prison law in the process.

Mark’s disruptive behaviour saw him transferred to 62 of Britain’s prisons, from Inverness in the north of Scotland to Parkhurst on the Isle of Wight.

A two-week protest on the roof of Long Lartin maximum security prison saw him spend 11 months on The Ghost Train, moved at monthly intervals to maximum security prison segregation units around the country until, in 1989, having been taken to the ultimate in prison disciplinary measures and still remained defiant, he landed at Grendon Underwood prison in Buckinghamshire – Britain’s only ‘therapeutic prison’.

Based on Group Therapy, Grendon is often seen as ‘a soft option’ by those who misunderstand its concepts – but it was a prison that was destined to change his life.

“Of all the prisons I went to” Mark was later to write, “Grendon was the hardest prison of all, because there I was made to confront myself, not the prison authorities – it was two years of a painfully searching self-scrutiny and what I found was not a pleasant sight – things had to change and I was the only one who could do it.”

In another description of Grendon prison Mark was later to write “it was the prison that took my head off, and then screwed it back on the right way around.”

At Grendon Prison Mark discovered a talent for writing, and while at Grendon he became the first Prisons Correspondent for The Guardian newspaper, for whom he still writes today.

Mark also wrote three award-winning plays – “The Facts Speak For Themselves“ Directed by Ned Chaillet was a 90-minute courtroom drama for BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Night Theatre, that won him the BBC Radio Drama Award.

Listen to the Play (90 minutes)

Mark’s exposure feature article of the HIV infection scandal inside Glenochil prison in central Scotland, won him the National Union of Journalists Award for the Best Feature by a non-health specialist.

Mark was released from prison in March 1995 and has since risen to become the country’s foremost ex-offender expert on the policy and practice of the penal system..

In 1998, with the Actor Stephen Fry, Mark founded and for the next four years was the Chief Executive of the award-winning (Charity of the Year) national charity for people with convictions UNLOCK.

In 2005 Mark was Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

In 2006 Mark founded Prisons Org UK Ltd (POUK*), publisher of The Prisons Handbook, of which Mark is the Editor and which has become the definitive 1,600 page annual reference book on the penal system of England and Wales – the 23rd annual edition of which was published in November 2021.

Mark is also the Editor of Converse; the largest circulation national monthly prisons newspaper, also published by POUK.

In November 2021 POUK published the 5th edition of The Cell Companion 2022the definitive guide to serving and surviving a prison sentence in England and Wales, edited by Mark and, as with all POUK’s books, serving prisoners obtain significant discounts.

POUK operate the trading style of the The Institute of Prison Law, whose acclaimed eight-module Certificate of Competency in Prison Law (COCPL) course has been studied by over a thousand lawyers, prison governors, officers and prisoners too since it was first created in 2006.

The COCPL was accredited as a 48-point CPD course by the Solicitors Regulation Authority until 2014, when external accreditation was ceased nationally by the Law Society, and earlier it was also accredited by the Bar Standards Board.

in November 2021 POUK published the 5th edition of Prison Law Index 2022; this critically acclaimed work, edited by Mark, is the definitive A-Z index of over 400 prison law subjects.

In 2018 Mark’s investigationGrenfell Prisonsinto fire safety, revealed how every prison inspected by the Fire Regulator in 2017/2018 had failed every inspection – a fact that had not previously been made public: Read the: Full Investigation

A welcome by-product of Mark’s investigation into the Prisons Inspectorate, published in The Independent that revealed how the vast majority of the Prison Inspectorate‘s recommendations were being routinely ignored by prisons, was an Urgent Notification Protocol that was signed between the Ministry of Justice and the Inspectorate four months after his exposé article, ensuring public accountability for failing prisons by the Justice Secretary for the first time.

Today Mark lives quietly with his partner and their two children, among the beautiful mountains and rice fields of Northern Thailand.

Outside of work his interests are in aviation – Mark is a qualified helicopter pilot.

Mark is the Editor of…

The Definitive UK
Prisons Website

Ever wasted hours trying to find information about prisons across a host of different web sites – and given up exasperated?

Now you don’t have to – its all on The Prison Oracle the UK’s fastest growing comprehensive website on prisons



With a Foreword by
Sir Martin Narey DL
Former Director General HM Prison Service

Dedicated to Dr Mary Louisa Gordon
The first female Prisons Inspector

The Definitive Annual Guide to the Prison System of England & Wales. 23rd Annual Edition: Published 15th November 2021. With 1,600 pages it’s the definitive annual guide to prisons in England and Wales – and has been for 25 years!


“The Prisons Handbook has for many years been an excellent example of clear effective communication providing a comprehensive guide to prisons for prisoners, their families and for practitioners across the Criminal Justice System.  Alongside the equally excellent Prison Oracle website it provides a window into the Prison system which is immensely valuable – and as important today as it has ever been!”
Michael Spurr, former CEO HM Prison & Probation Service (2010-2019
) – from his Foreword to The Prisons Handbook 2021.


“An incredible reference book on prisons; I keep a copy in my top drawer and refer to it frequently”
Director General HM Prison & Probation Service (2020)


“Strongly Recommended”
Chief Executive HM Prison & Probation Service (2020)


“A great point of reference for Governors, staff, prisoners, families and civil servants alike; a reliable source of information.”
Rt.Hon David Gauke MP, Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor (2019)


“The prison system is very complicated to navigate and I consider The Prisons Handbook an invaluable tool for everyone connected with it”
Bob Neill MP, Chairman:
Parliamentary Justice Select Committee (2019)


5th Edition November 2021

A remarkable and much needed book which should prove invaluable to prisoners and practitioners alike”
Edward Fitzgerald QC



5th Edition November 2021

“This book should be on every bed, in every pad, in every prison in the country”
Paul Ferris ‘The Wee Man’



“Outstanding for its balance, coverage and accuracy – the only national prison newspaper completely edited and published by successful former offenders, of which I too am one”
Stephen Fry


You can contact Mark by emailing

Follow Mark on social media below.


  • On 21st October 2019 POUK was bought outright by Number One Consultancy Co Ltd who appointed Mark as the head of its publications division.
error: No Sorry! This content is protected!