Prisons to close in England as super-prison site revealed


Danny Shaw: "I don't think there's going to be a net increase in prison places"

Related Stories

Four prisons in England are to close as the government announced the site for a new super-prison in north Wales.

The jails in Reading, Dorchester, Blundeston and Northallerton will be shut down by March next year, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said.

Feltham Young Offender Institution will also be replaced.

But campaigners said replacing old prisons with new, bigger ones would make them harder to manage and would not reduce crime.

'Overcrowded and violent'

Prison closures

HMP Oakwood

Closed since May 2010: Ashwell, Brockhill, Bullwood Hall, Camp Hill, Canterbury, Gloucester, Kingston, Lancaster Castle, Latchmere House, Shepton Mallet, Shrewsbury, Wellingborough

Due to close: Blundeston, Dorchester, Northallerton, Reading

Likely to close: Dartmoor

Opened: Thameside, Oakwood

Due to open: Wrexham, and mini-prisons planned for Parc, Peterborough, The Mount, Thameside

The closures mean 1,400 prison places will be lost in England and Wales while the new £250m prison in Wrexham will hold more than 2,000 inmates.

The super-prison will create 1,000 jobs, according to the government.

In the four English prisons that are due to close, 685 staff could lose their jobs.

Dartmoor prison, in Devon, is also likely to shut, although not for some time.

Work will start on the new Welsh prison next summer and it is due to open by late 2017.

Officials are also investigating the possibility of building another large prison in south-east England - possibly on the existing Feltham site in west London - with a youth facility attached.

Mr Grayling said the plans would "modernise" the prison system and bring down costs. He pledged there would be more prison places than when the coalition was elected in 2010.

Artist impression of super-prison This is how the super-prison could look, according to artist impressions released by the Ministry of Justice
Artist impression of  super-prison This is an interior view of what it could look like
Artist impression of  super-prison The details of the super-prison have not been finalised
Artist impression of  super-prison The prison would be built on the site of the former Firestone tyre factory in Wrexham

"Of course the reorganisation of our prison estate which we are undertaking means some difficult decisions," he added.

"But we have to make sure that we have modern, affordable prisons that give the best opportunity for us to work with offenders to stop them committing more crimes when they leave."

But the Prison Officers Association accused ministers of paying "lip service" to prison workers who it said have to work in "overcrowded and violent" institutions.

Chairman Peter McParlin said the closure programme was "cuts-driven and does nothing for the rehabilitation revolution".


Steadily, almost imperceptibly, the prison estate is changing. Small, local jails are closing as new, bigger jails in city areas open.

Since 2010, 12 prisons have shut and one has been converted into an immigration removal centre. The only two prisons to open in the same period were the giant Oakwood jail in the west Midlands, home to 1,600 prisoners, and Thameside, in south-east London, which can hold 900.

The latest plans follow the same trend. It may make economic sense - older, smaller prisons are more expensive to run - but will it help cut re-offending? Prison reformers doubt it, claiming that super-size jails are little more than "warehouses".

The latest official performance indicators placed both Oakwood and Thameside on the lowest level possible. Ministers will be hoping that the 2,000-bed jail planned for Wrexham has a smoother launch.

Last year around 19,140 inmates on average were made to share a cell designed for one person, according to Ministry of Justice figures.

Since January, 2,800 "unstrategic and uneconomic" prison places have been cut from the estate, his department added.

It said the four new closures would reduce the prison budget by £30m a year.

The new closures brings the total number of prisons closed since May 2010 to 16.

'Too large'

There has been a mixed reaction to the announcement from prison reform campaigners.

"Closing failing prisons is the right move to make, but without a coherent strategy to reduce prison numbers it will make the problem of overcrowding worse," said Frances Crook from the Howard League for Penal Reform, adding the new super-size prisons would be "too large to manage effectively".

Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, added: "Closing small local prisons and replacing them with super-sized jails will not reduce crime or make communities safer."

Labour said its plans while in government would have "would have provided cheaper prison places much earlier".

"New prison places don't appear out of fresh air to replace those being closed now," shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan said.

Meanwhile, the MoJ also announced The Verne in south Dorset will become an immigration removal centre, with capacity for around 600 detainees awaiting deportation.

Downview prison, in Surrey, is to hold male rather than female prisoners and Warren Hill, in Suffolk, will stop holding young offenders and will instead hold adult males, it added.

Figures published by the Ministry of Justice show that jails held an average of just over 85,000 prisoners between April 2012 and March this year.

Map showing prison closures and openings

Prisons closures and openings

Name of prison Status since 2010 No. prisoners held

Ashwell, Rutland



Brockhill, Redditch



Bullwood Hall, Essex



Camp Hill, Isle of Wight



Canterbury, Kent



Gloucester, Glocs



Kingston, Portsmouth



Lancaster Castle, Lancaster



Latchmere House, London



Shepton Mallet, Somerset



Shrewsbury, Shropshire



Wellingborough, Northants



Blundeston, Suffolk

Closure announced 4 Sept 2013


Dorchester, Dorset

Closure announced 4 Sept 2013


Northallerton, N Yorks

Closure announced 4 Sept 2013


Reading, Berks

Closure announced 4 Sept 2013


Dartmoor, Devon

Closure planned (no date)


Morton Hall, Lincs

Converted to immigration removal centre


The Verne, Dorset

To be converted to immigration removal centre


Total places lost


Thameside, London

New prison opened 2012


Oakwood, W Mids

New prison opened 2012


Wrexham, N Wales

New prison announced


Parc (S Wales)

New houseblock (extension)

Peterborough, Northants

New houseblock (extension)

The Mount, Herts

New houseblock (extension)

Thameside, London

New houseblock (extension)

Total houseblock places




Total places gained



More on This Story

Related Stories


This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    @19 You think there no Welsh prisoners in English jails?... we are all British!

    Anyway it will bring employment to Wales!

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    Prisoners are given a place to sleep, food, clothing and access to health and education.

    And we should do the same for those unemployed who have made no or little contribution to the state by way of taxes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    Cheer up Wales, just look at Australia now. lol

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    bring back transportation and exile as punishments.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Given the way things are going, why don't we save money entirely by just assuming the entire country is an open prison?

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.



    Throw away the key

    Invade Syria

    Get tough

    Punish him !

    He made us feel bad !

    ... all amounts to the same thing ... vindictiveness and lack of self-awareness

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    I hope they get planning permission before the old prisons close!

    Honestly, what a farce. Surely it would make sense to have the new prison ready before closing the old ones? What will happen to the prisoners from the closed ones? Will they be put into portacabins on-site?
    I guess joined up thinking wasn't required for the people who are running this shambles.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Why should Wales be forced to take England's prisoners, no offence England, but this is just wrong, you should not close your own prisons, sweep clean your own back yard, only to dump them else where, look I an not anti-English, (except in rugby) but this is imperialist and something that should not happen in the 21st century, the problems prisons bring to local communities are huge it's not fair.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Fill it up - stop early release for persistent and violent criminals, in fact build more and larger prisons - lots of little uninhabited islands available, let those who choose to live a respectable life do so without having to worry about those who have choosen to kill/maim/rape/abuse etc. Find a harsh ex-army RSM to run the regimes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    Just wait until the prisoners start whining on about their human right to family life and how difficult it is to maintain a relationship with your family when they have to travel hundreds of miles to visit.

    Who decided that the prisons to be closed are all on the east of the country and the new prison is in Wales!

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    This is typical of the tories, they will do anything to save a bit of money even if it is a terrible idea.

    We should not be building one massive prison, we should be building lots of smaller ones.

    With the smaller ones there is a better chance of the prisoners being closer to their families which would help with rehabilitation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Trust our bungling politicians to start closing prisons before this new one is even off the drawing board.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Can see it now - HM Prisons by G4S

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    It's not about preventing re-offending or rehabilitation, it's about economies of scale. Don't kid yourselves the Government or Establishment are concerned about you. Pile it high and service it cheap!

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    What was the recent story about making sure prisoners were held as close to their homes as possible? Are we expecting a crime wave in north Wales / Liverpool?

    Good idea to replace old prisons, but bigger is not always better.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    The prison population has more than doubled over the past 20 years, would be interesting to know why.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    These empty prisons might solve the housing problem - turn them into social housing? Oh sorry, social housing means that those given such housing must get the same or better accomodation than the wage slaves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    I have a horrible feeling we're heading down the US road, where prison populations are artificially boosted with harsh sentences for things like possession of cannabis or minor theft because they need lots of free labour in order to earn nice fat profits for the owners of the privatised jail.

    Go look up 'kids for cash scandal' on google - kids lives were ruined for the sake of profit margin

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    Danny Shaw: "I don't think there's going to be a net increase in prison places"

    We need more prison spaces, not fewer. Even if crime rates were falling, the population is still increasing so overall you have more criminals. It seems that the traditional answer to this problem has been to issue shorter/community sentences, rather than just bite the bullet and increase prison capacity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Big money in prisons.


Page 22 of 23


More UK stories



BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.