Today I visited one of the above places, a high security psychiatric hospital. Broadmoor is the most high profile, but they are all pretty much the same. It was a bit scary at first, being searched, going though four/five locked soors. The gentleman giving the tour pointed out that forgetting to lock a door behind you was a disciplinary matter.
In 1998 the Fallon report was published as a result of children being groomed by residents at Ashworth in 1998. What happened was that the patients with Personality Disorder were running the ward. Sticking a buch of people who are highly manipulative is not usually a good idea. Patients were able to take advantage of low staff morale who did not feel they could turn for management for help. From what I can gather these concerns were first raised by one of the patients who was ignored.
One surprise to me was the idea that patients would often want to be in prison as opposed to "hospital." The theory being that in prison you have access to drugs and there can be a hiearchy of power. Whilst in a secure psychiatric hospital you cant smuggled stuff in by bribing staff.
So are these places necessary? Or a throwback to a bygone era? Some of the people in these places have commited no crimes, society has acted pre-emptively. Others have been deemed "safe" by doctors but the Home secretary got the jitters and overuled them. Any after speaking to a patient intense debate was given when we were asked whether or not she should be released back into society