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Small prisons ‘best at rehabilitation’

18 January 2013

by Jessica Bull


Bars close: Shrewsbury Prison, one of seven earmarked for closure

Bars close: Shrewsbury Prison, one of seven earmarked for closure

CHURCH of England bishops have warned that prisoners and their families may suffer under new prison reforms.

The Ministry of Justice announced last week that a "Titan" prison is to be built, with an estimated capacity of 2000 places. As a result, seven "old and uneconomic" prisons will close, and the new prison will house the inmates. The Government believes that this move will save about £63 million a year.

The Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, told BBC Radio 4's World at One last week: "I never want the courts to be in a position where they cannot send a criminal to prison because there is no place available."

The prisons set to close are Shepton Mallet (the oldest working prison in the UK); Kingston (Portsmouth), Bullwood Hall (Essex), Canterbury, Gloucester, Shrewsbury, and Camp Hill (Isle of Wight).

Speaking in the House of Lords on Tuesday, the Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Revd James Jones, who is the Bishop for Prisons, urged that "the architecture of new prisons should reflect the evidence that training and work programmes for prisoners can be transformative in rehabilitating offenders."

Bishop James praised two schemes he had observed closely: the Clink and Timpson initiatives. He described the former as a "high-quality, West End-style restaurant created inside a prison, with professional chefs training prisoners to cook and to serve paying clients."

A further eight restaurants are planned. Of the 35 prisoners who have completed this scheme so far, 29 have found employment after release, and three have re-offended.

Shrewsbury Prison was also praised by the Bishop of Shrews-bury, the Rt Revd Mark Rylands. "Small prisons are expensive but often top-performing prisons. Reoffending rates are very low."

The closure includes two prisons in the diocese of Portsmouth which currently house 800 people. The Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Revd Christopher Foster, expressed concern about the support prisoners and their families would receive in such an institution.

Roma Hooper, a campaigner for Make Justice Work, said that the idea was the "opposite" of rehabilitation. "I thought that the idea had been knocked on its head a few years ago because of all the evidence that suggested it was not a good idea."


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