Portland's prison ship
Portland was once home to the UK's one and only prison ship. It closed in 2006, but Britain's large prison population means that some still look to prison ships as a solution to overcrowding. BBC Dorset looks back at HMP Weare.
HMP Weare was sold off in 2006 after conditions on board were criticised by the Chief Inspector for Prisoners.
He complained that the inmates had no exercise and no access to fresh air. He said it was "unsuitable, expensive and in the wrong place". So Portland's prison ship – Britain's first and only prison ship – was closed down.
The ship was built in the 1980s as a barracks for troops, before being shipped to New York where it was used as a prison, before coming to Portland.
The 400-man prison was opened as a temporary measure in 1997, originally for a period of three years.
But after its closure in 2006 there was soon speculation that the government was thinking about buying the ship back.
It had already been sold to a Nigerian shipping company to provide accommodation to oil workers.
The problem was a prison population at record levels, up by 90% since 1993.
The advantage of prison ships, it was argued, is that they are cheaper to run, and can be bought more quickly.
Ultimately, it wasn't an option the government decided to go for, so HMP Weare remains the only example of a prison ship the UK has seen.
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last updated: 09/04/2008 at 16:24
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