Posted: 30th November
Building news: 9 new super prisons on their way
Chancellor George Osborne and Justice Secretary Michael Gove have unveiled a major “new for old” prison reform programme, which includes plans to build nine new prisons in England and Wales.
At a cost of £3 billion, the aim of the programme is to ensure that Britain’s prison system is fit for purpose, by closing down ‘ageing and ineffective’ Victorian prisons and selling the sites off for the construction of 3,000 new homes.
The profit from the sale of the city- centre sites will be used to fund the building of the nine new prisons, which will be ‘modern, suitable and rehabilitative’.
Five new jails are expected to be opened by 2020 in addition to a new prison being built in Wrexham and the expansion of prisons in Rutland and Warwickshire.
The Treasury named the site of Grade-II listed Reading prison as the first to be sold off under the programme, but the locations of the other sites have not yet been revealed. But Pentonville prison was named as a possible candidate by Gove when he first outlined his commitment to a new for old prisons policy in July, describing it as “the most dramatic example of failure within the prison estate”.
Other possible sites are Wandsworth, Wormwood Scrubs and Brixton, which are all in highly lucrative locations that could net the Treasury tens of millions.
According to Osborne, the new facilities will accommodate around 10,000 prisoners, and benefit from lower running costs, saving the public purse £80m a year.
In addition to the five new sites, a new prison is being built in Wrexham and HMP Stocken, while a category C jail in Rutland, and HMP Rye Hill, a category B prison in Warwickshire run by G4S, are both being expanded.
The proposed policy of new for old has been discussed many times. In the 1930’s it was suggested that the closure of Pentonville would allow the site near King’s Cross to be sold for housing. It was suggested that Holloway women’s prison be closed at the same time to provide a replacement adult male jail for north London.
A similar policy was announced by Labour a decade after a study by the Labour peer Lord Carter, then a member of the prison service board. When Carter first proposed the idea in 2001, there were 26 Victorian prisons in use and a further 16 that were even older.
The proposed reforms will not only modernise an outdated public service and save the taxpayer money, but the project will also create a fair amount of work for building and construction workers.
Everyone’s a winner!