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, 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

The City of Manchester


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 1988, 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 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 court-room drama for BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Night Theatre, that won him the BBC Radio Drama Award.

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 national charity for people with convictions UNLOCK.

Today he is the Managing Editor of The Prisons Handbook, the definitive 1,600 page annual reference book on the penal system of England and Wales, and the Editor of Converse; the largest circulation national monthly prisons newspaper – edited and published 100% by reformed offenders.

His latest work, ’The Cell Companion’ – everyone’s guide to serving and surviving a prison sentence in England and Wales – sold out within weeks and a new edition is to be published in September 2019.

Mark is the Director of The Institute of Prison Law, whose acclaimed Certificate of Competency in Prison Law has been studied by over a thousand lawyers, prison governors, officers and prisoners too since it was first created in 2006.

In October 2019 the third edition of Prison Law Index is to be published, edited by Mark, which is the definitive A-Z index of over 400 prison law subjects.

Mark is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a member of the National Union of Journalists and a member of the Labour Party.

In 2018 Mark’s investigation “Grenfell Prisons” into 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. [full investigation]

A welcome by-product of his August 2017 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 and instructor.

Read Mark’s recent articles


The Prison Oracle, launched on October 1st 2019. All the definitive prison information you need, in one place from the publisher experts trust

The Definitive Annual Guide to the Prison System of England & Wales
21st Annual Edition: Published 19th August 2019
1,600 pages – the most comprehensive edition ever!

“Strongly Recommended” – HM Prison & Probation Service (2019)

“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 (2018)

“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)


PRISON LAW INDEX 2020 – 3rd Edition

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


THE CELL COMPANION 2020 – 3rd Edition

“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


If you have information about prisons you can contact Mark at his end-to-end encrypted email account markleechconfidential@protonmail.com – this is a highly encrypted email account to which only Mark have access.

Follow Mark on social media below.

Media Contact: Andy Simpson +44 (0)7836 717021  Email andy@prisons.org.uk