Political News Updates


Telegraph: Seven jails close as Chris Grayling plans for new super-prison

Seven prisons are to close within three months with the net loss of more than 1,500 places, despite Chris Grayling hailing plans to create Britain's biggest jail.

By Wesley Johnson, Home Affairs Correspondent

The closures, designed to save £63 million, were condemned by the Prison Officers’ Association, who said they would “endanger public safety” and showed the Government accepted “institutionalised overcrowding in prisons”.

The union also questioned whether the 2,000-capacity super-prison would ever be built, saying plans for titan prisons had been slated for more than a decade and nothing had happened.
Mr Grayling, the Justice Secretary, dismissed suggestions it was simply a headline grabbing initiative, confirming possible sites for the new jail had been identified in London, the North West and North Wales.

“It needs to (be built),” he told BBC Radio Four’s World at One programme.

"In two or three years’ time, we have further financial challenges to meet, I’m going to need to bring on new capacity at a lower cost, so that I can close older prisons, keep the same number of people in prison, but save money at the same time, so I have to have a next phase of projects."

But jails at Bullwood Hall in Essex, Canterbury, Gloucester, Kingston in Portsmouth, Shepton Mallet in Somerset and Shrewsbury will all close by March, along with Camp Hill prison on the Isle of Wight.

Cells in Chelmsford and Hull will also be decommissioned with the total loss of 2,800 prison places.

New house blocks holding up to 1,260 prisoners will be built at Parc jail in South Wales, Peterborough in Cambridgeshire, the Mount in Hertfordshire and Thameside in London to help replace them.

And the 400-capacity Ashfield Young Offenders Institution will also be turned into an adult male prison, but details of how many inmates it will hold are not yet available.

Mr Grayling said: "We have to bring down the cost of our prison system, much of which is old and expensive.

"But I never want the courts to be in a position where they cannot send a criminal to prison because there is no place available.

"So we have to move as fast as we can to replace the older parts of our prison system."
Sadiq Khan, the shadow justice secretary, said: “The public will want reassurance that there's enough prison places over the coming years to keep safely behind bars those found guilty of serious crimes.

“This announcement is about short-term gain, with vague commitments to the possibility of a new prison being built somewhere down the line nothing but red meat for Tory backbenchers.”

Glyn Travis, of the POA, said he was “extremely disappointed” and condemned the move, saying: “The plan to save money will endanger public safety and that of prisoners in our estate.

“Where are we going to put 2,600 prisoners in a prison estate that is already overcrowded?”
Nearly two thirds of prisons in England and Wales are overcrowded, with some 84,000 inmates behind bars last Friday and less than 7,000 available places.

The closures come after the G4S-run Oakwood Prison in Featherstone near Wolverhampton opened last year with places for up to 1,605 prisoners at an annual cost of £13,200 per place, compared with up to £50,000 in some of the older prisons.