UK – Government plans three prison shutdowns
There are three prisons in Britain, that in total, can house 850 inmates that are scheduled to close. Ashwell prison in Rutland and Lancaster Castle in Lancashire will shut, while Morton Hall in Lincolnshire changes to an immigration removal centre. Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke said the jails were outdated and expensive, and he also wants to cut inmate numbers.
The count of all inmates last weekend were 82,991 in England and Wales, almost 5,000 places below capacity. The inmates from the three prisons will be housed elsewhere while about 500 staff will be transferred nearby or invited to apply for voluntary redundancy.
Mr Clarke said: “The decision to close any prison is a difficult one but one that we have had to make. Closing outdated and expensive prisons is an important step in our strategy to provide a secure and modern, fit-for-purpose prison estate, while improving efficiency and value for the taxpayer. “The changes will reduce our current capacity by 849 places and I am confident that they can be safely managed within existing headroom, whilst maintaining our ability to cope with any increase in population. BBC
Security still will remain a top priority, and the decision on the size of the future prison estate will be driven by population demand and prisons will only close when capacity allows. Clarke further said that they will still ensure that there are sufficient places for those offenders sentenced to custody by the courts, including a margin to manage fluctuations in the prison population. Decisions to close future capacity will only be taken if they do not put this ability at risk.
Back in December Mr Clarke released proposals to reduce the then 85,000-strong prison population in England and Wales by about 3,000 over four years. And there are also other proposals discussed to help reduce the prison population, by allowing some foreign criminals to leave Britain for good instead of going to prison, giving judges more discretion over sentencing in murder cases and handing more offenders fines or community sentences.
Ashwell prison, a former Army camp, is a facility for medium-risk males with a capacity of 214. It will close by the end of March. Lancaster Castle is leased from Lancashire County Council while the land itself is owned by the Duchy of Lancaster. It has a capacity of 238 and will also close by the end of March. And Morton Hall, a former RAF base used to house female prisoners, has a capacity of 392. The government said it would be operational as an immigration centre by some time next year. BBC