Illuminating Our Prisons

Published August 23

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Illuminating Our Prisons

Illuminating our prisons can be challenging as luminaires need to be robust, reliable, impact-, tamper- and attack-resistant, prevent inmates from self-harming and be easy to maintain.

With our prison estate expanding, it is perhaps unsurprising that LED solutions are becoming increasingly attractive. Our Sales Director, Steve Tilling, looks at the challenges facing this unique market sector.

Illuminating Our Prisons

Whether lighting a 19th century building or a new “super prison”, safety is the key consideration. Ensuring the wellbeing of prisoners and operational personnel is of the utmost importance. A custodial luminaire must pass stringent Ministry of Justice (MoJ) standards. This includes real world destruction tests which utilise implements that could be available to a prisoner such as chair legs and pool cues.

Impact Resistance

Impact resistance is governed by the European Standard EN 60068-2-75, which tests the joules of energy a luminaire can resist. An compliant luminaire is given an IK rating. The highest IK rating, IK11, is equal to an impact of 50 joules of energy. However, in custodial environments this level of impact resistance is simply not adequate. Designplan have built a drop-test rig which can create impacts up to 250 joules of energy.

Watch one of our customers from Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust try and destroy one of our Duomo luminaries.

Duomo Product Test by Avon And Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust

Preventing self-harming is a key safety concern in custodial applications. MoJ standards state that in ‘safer cell’ applications “the luminaires must be designed so as to reduce the potential for a prisoner to attach a ligature in order to attempt suicide”. This is achieved by minimising the aperture between the luminaire’s diffuser and body, incorporating anti-pick mastic around the base plate of the fitting and utilising tamper proof screws.

Illuminating Our Prisons
Illuminating Our Prisons
Illuminating Our Prisons

To resist extended periods of naked flame attack, specially designed diffusers are incorporated into custodial light fittings to stop holes being created which could be used to attach ligatures or store contraband. In addition, a wire mesh can be incorporated into a luminaire as another way to help prevent a fitting from being breached.

Emergency Lighting

Emergency lighting is very important in illuminating our prisons. Many general custodial areas can be lit to BS5266-1:2016. However, the MoJ has a very stringent set of specific emergency lighting standards. These require enhanced lighting levels, which go over and above normal emergency lighting levels, for high risk areas, secured doors or gatelines and defined escape routes.


To summarise, when illuminating our prisons, the safety of prisoners and staff is paramount. The construction of the product is very important, as is compliance to various standards. Easy maintenance and reduced energy consumption are also key drivers as custodial applications look to retrofit existing luminaires to LED or build new facilities which maximise the use of the latest lighting technology.

Speak to our expert

If you have any queries or require further information, then please contact Steve on 07879 418690 or e-mail

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