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"

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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



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  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    Some prisoners actually respond to the staff in them who are trying to help them. By increasing the prison population and reducing the staff, the prisoners will loose out. Also the real prison officers should run them not some private company who pay their staff peanuts. There is a skill to being a prison officer and it is achieved through experience. We need modern prisons but not big ones.

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    57. Bean-counter

    Not only that but the Police HQ is set to move and jobs are being cut at county hall. Northallerton is slowly dying. The high street is pretty much banks and charity shops and now all the government jobs are going. Not Good.

  • Comment number 84.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    35.Singing The Blues
    £250m and 1000 jobs for 2000 prisoners equates to £250,000 and 1 warder for 2 prisoners. Oh if only the same kind of attention and resources were made available to some of our children!

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    What about the visitors? It's quite a trek from North Yorkshire or Suffolk to Wrexham. Prisoners are not going to be able to see their families so often and it'll be more expensive for family members, who'll have to cut down on the number of visits.

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    As we are desperately short of prison places why replace four with one. Build the new one AND keep the other four.

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    It costs over £1000.00 a year,to keep a person in prison,bad enough as it is,why do we have to house prisoners not of English origin,would it not be better to siege all possessions,belonging to these people,houses,bank accounts etc,then deport them to their country of origin.

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    Criminals will be sending postcards to other inmates in other prisons with the message "Wish You Were Here".

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    6. The March Hare
    It might help if,instead of locking up illegal immigrants and asylum seekers who have committed a crime,we just put them straight on a plane back home.
    At what point do you plan to draw the line? because they've already broken a law if they have entered the country illegally? If the asylum seeker gets a parking fine or speeding ticket? their case for asylum is gone? seems mad!

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    What are the POA doing/going to do ? Not a lot, I would suggest ! Long gone are the glory days of this once powerful union. To my former colleagues.....are YOUR interests being defended and acted on ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    You published a story a few days ago about the Military Correction Centre at Colchester, which demonstrated the beneficial aspects of a SMALLER gaol... not a large warehouse which is liable to provide even less support or rehabilitation to convicts than existing prisons do!

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    The whole idea of this seems to be more prisoners and less guards. It'll all end in tears I think.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    @ 25. AndyC555

    Ah yes the way of the Nazi's - "lock the unemployed away - they're no better than criminals".

    Unfortunately there are many idiots that think this is perfectly fine.... how very sad.

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    I hope the running of this "super prison" will not be out-sourced.

    Prison for profit is evil.

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    The new prison will actually take more than 2000 inmates as stated in the report not 1400, this is the amount of places lost due to the closure of the other sites, so overall more inmates will be able to be housed, as for the jobs more are being created and those about to loose theirs will most likely be offered re-location.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    Super prisons are a mistake. This is the American way, and it is a dead end. They are dehumanising, and lead to increased violence. There was work done many years ago on the optimum size for prisons, and I cannot recall what it was, but it was not on the scale proposed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    That prison cell looks better than some hotel rooms I have stayed in. No wonder we have a problem. Prison should be somewhere you don't want t

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    @58.Alaric the Visigoth
    "was the reason because you feared punishment that might result from crime or because you have a strong moral compass? If criminals don't fear punishment what's the solution to reducing their criminality?"

    Brought up to understand that crime is wrong. I've never even considered theft, but some folk are latent criminals, you can't blame circumstances. Lock 'em up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    A super prison? Does that mean more comfortable beds? bigger televisions, access to on-site health and beauty spas?

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.


    Cheer up Wales, just look at Australia now. lol


    Interesting point, if only Wales had the right to self determination, such as saying NO each and every time you guys across the boarder want water demolishing our towns for reservoirs with out compensation, whilst the likes of the Duchy of Cornwall remains clear of such things, time to lead be example guys...???


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