Dorchester Prison closes doors for last time

Closing ceremony at Dorchester Prison
Image caption A closing ceremony was held earlier at the prison

Dorchester Prison has closed its doors for the final time as part of government cost-cutting plans.

In September, the government announced the Victorian prison building in North Square was among four English sites to close.

Most of Dorchester's 157 staff have been transferred to the former HMP The Verne on Portland, which will become a new immigration removal centre.

A closing ceremony took place at HMP Dorchester earlier.

West Dorset MP and Minister for Government Policy, Oliver Letwin said the buildings at Dorchester "weren't suitable for a modern prison".

"Dorchester prison officers and governors have worked very hard over the years to provide the best possible conditions in a very ancient setting," he added.

"But I am still in discussion with the ministry of justice to try to ensure that we have a resettlement prison within Dorset.

"To reduce reoffending, it's important that prisoners should be kept as near as possible to their families."

Mike Sear, of the Prison Officers Association, described it as a "sad day".

"The closure is taking a huge amount out of the local economy and we think it is a prison which is fit for purpose," he said.

The government said the closures of Dorchester, Reading, Blundeston and Northallerton would reduce the prison budget by £30m a year, whilst "modernising" the prison system.

A new £250m super-prison in north Wales that will house 2,000 inmates has also been announced.

The new immigration removal centre at HMP The Verne will provide around 600 additional places to hold immigration detainees awaiting removal from the country.

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