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MoJ announces prisons closure

Seven prisons in England are to close, the Ministry of Justice has announced. A new 2,000-capacity ‘super-prison’ will replace the old buildings.

A feasibility study has been launched, with the new prison to be situated in London, north-west England or north Wales. The new building is expected to save £62m a year and be about 25% bigger than the largest existing prison.

The seven prisons to close are Bullwood Hall in Essex, Canterbury, Gloucester, Kingston in Portsmouth, Shepton Mallet in Somerset, Shrewsbury, and Camp Hill on the Isle of Wight. Prisons in Chelmsford and Hull are also to be partially closed.

Justice secretary Chris Grayling also unveiled plans for four new ‘mini-prisons’, known as houseblocks, which will provide capacity for 1,260 prisoners. These will be built at existing prisons at Parc in south Wales, Peterborough in Cambridgeshire, the Mount in Hertfordshire and Thameside in London.

Grayling said: “We have to bring down the cost of our prison system, much of which is old and expensive. But I never want the courts to be in a position where they cannot send a criminal to prison because there is no place available. So we have to move as fast as we can to replace the older parts of our prison system.”

The MoJ stated: “Our strategy for the custodial estate is to ensure that we have sufficient places to meet the demand of the courts whilst securing best value for money for the taxpayer.”

Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: “It would be a gigantic mistake if the justice secretary were to revive the discredited idea of titans and pour taxpayers' money down the prison building drain, when the Coalition Government could invest in crime prevention, healthcare and community solutions to crime.”

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