DISGRACED footballer Adam Johnson will exchange his VIP-lifestyle for VP status behind bars.

The player will almost certainly be classed as a Vulnerable Prisoner and mix solely with other sex offenders, such as fellow celebrity Rolf Harris.

Former prisoner Eric Allison, who served 16 years behind bars and is now Prison Correspondent for The Guardian newspaper, believes Johnson will almost certainly serve his time in a Category C prison.

But first he will trade his luxury mansion for A-wing at Armley, a Victorian prison in Leeds where he will be held until he can be moved on.

The Northern Echo:
HMP Leeds, where Adam Johnson where he will be held until he can be moved on. Picture: Prisoninfo/Wikipedia/CreativeCommons

And if the former Sunderland star wants to cope with his new-found surroundings, his advice is: “Keep your head down, don’t boast and don’t be flash.”

Mr Allison said: “He will be classed as a vulnerable prisoner.

“If he goes on the VP wing, it is almost certain he will be sharing a cell. That’s for two reasons, partly because of overcrowding, which is rife, and partly because they will also take the view that is if for his own safety if he is considered at risk of self-harm.

“My guess is, they will want to move him quite quickly. He will probably spend just a few days in Armley, certainly he won’t be going anywhere until after Easter because there will be no movement between prisons over the holidays”.

Within days, Mr Allison believes, he will be moved to one of a number of Category C prisons with dedicated wings for vulnerable prisoners and thinks his most likely home for the next few years will be either HMP Wymott, near Preston, or HMP Stafford, where disgraced TV presenter Rolf Harris is serving his sentence.

There he will be kept separate from other prisoners and will serve his whole sentence with only fellow sex offenders for company.

“Celebrities will get picked on, they will have the piss taken out of them and get the usual sort of remarks.

“But personally speaking, I wouldn’t imagine that Johnson would get too much of a hard time from the other prisoners.

“A lot of them would think that having sex with a 15-year-old was a bit near the mark, but not on the scale of a Huntley.

“He will probably wonder what he is doing among them, because some of them will be in for offences against very young children”.

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Adam Johnson hired security to protect him and his property after threats were made towards him following his convictions

He added: “VPs don’t exercise in the same yard, the wings are self-contained with their own showers and medical centres. If they go to the gym they won’t go at the same time as other prisoners and the staff are specially selected.

“The gym orderlies will be normal prisoners, but they will have been told to lay off the VPs and not to abuse them when they come in.

“There is plenty of violence inside, but there is very little sexual violence – I spent 16 years in prison altogether and there were plenty of relationships, consensual relationships between men, but I never came across a single case of rape.”

The two prisons thought most likely to become Johnson’s new home both have a gym, sports hall and outdoor sports field while HMP Northumberland, which is another possible destination, boasts three outdoor football pitches, a rugby pitch and several gyms.

The Northern Echo:
Adam Johnson during his playing days for Sunderland AFC

Mr Allison, who served time in some of the country’s most notorious prisons including Durham, Strangeways and Wormwood Scrubs, said: “Someone like him, who has lived in luxury for years will find it hard to adapt.

“Exercise is limited to once a day. Exercise in the yard is 30 minutes, depending on the weather, because if it’s raining you don’t go, and access to the gym will vary between prisons.

“Diet is pretty rough. He will get cereal for breakfast, which is left the previous night, sandwiches for lunch and one hot meal a day”.