Justice ministry to close three prisons

13 Jan 11
Three prisons, including one housed in a medieval castle, are to close under the first phase of the Ministry of Justice’s programme to save money by reducing the prisons estate.

By Mark Smulian

13 January 2010

Three prisons, including one housed in a medieval castle, are to close under the first phase of the Ministry of Justice’s programme to save money by reducing the prisons estate.

Those affected are Lancaster Castle, Ashwell and Morton Hall. The latter will be converted to an immigration removal centre

The ministry said that prisoner numbers had grown slower than predicted, reaching 82,991 on January 7, at which point there was a capacity of 87,936 in the system.

Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke said: ‘Closing outdated and expensive prisons is an important step in our strategy to provide a secure and modern, fit-for-purpose prison estate, while improving efficiency and value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 three closures would take 849 places out of the system, a reduction which Clarke said he was confident could be ‘safely managed within existing headroom, whilst maintaining our ability to cope with any increase in population’.

Lancaster Castle’s medieval accommodation ‘places severe limitations and restrictions’ on the ability of prison staff to run an appropriate service, the ministry said.

Part of Ashwell prison, in Rutland, is out of use following a fire and riot in 2009 and its refurbishment would be uneconomic.

Prisons staff will be redeployed or offered voluntary redundancy.

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