December 20 2013 Latest news:
Thursday, September 5, 2013
A north Suffolk prison is to close under government plans to help slash millions of pounds from the overall prison budget.
The category C Blundeston Prison near Lowestoft has a capacity for 526 prisoners, a 60 bed wing for life sentence prisoners and employs more than 100 prison officers and a further 130 staff.
Yesterday Justice Secretary Chris Grayling revealed 50-year-old HMP Blundeston, which is predominantly for prisoners from the east of England, is one of four prisons the Ministry of Justice wants to close to save £30m a year because they are said to be either expensive to run or need substantial capital investment.
The government says prisoners will be moved to elsewhere in the area with many probably being sent to Warren Hill near Ipswich a young offenders’ institute, which is set to become a adult prison under the Ministry of Justice plans.
It is believed all staff at HMP Blundeston will be offered voluntary early departure settlements with the government doing all it could to avoid compulsory redundancies.
However yesterday’s announcement has been labelled as an insult to all of the staff at HMP Blundeston by Steve Gillan, general secretary of the Prison Officers’ Association, who is visiting officers this at the prison this morning.
Mr Gillan said: “This is a slap in the face to all the hard working prison officers who have served their country so well and helped to keep it safe.
“It is vert shortsighted by Mr Grayling to announce this when our prisons are already heavily populated. I believe this could be a recipe for disaster and it could leave prison officers open to more assaults from prisoners.”
Waveney MP Peter Aldous had met with the prisons minister Jeremy Wright on Tuesday about the closure plans and said his priority was to meet all the staff who work at the prison and hear their concerns.
He said he believed all staff would be offered voluntary early departure and the government was doing all it could to avoid compulsory redundancies. Mr Aldous said: “It is regrettable that this decision has been made and it is now important to immediately focus on the staff at Blundeston so that their needs are sufficiently met.
“I shall be looking to meet with them as soon as possible and then shall be meeting with the minister to ensure that their concerns are properly addressed.
“This decision is no reflection on the excellent work that has been done by staff at Blundeston and has largely come about as a result of a lack of investment in the prison by successive governments over many years.
“The issue is that it is an old prison and it is very expensive to run. I go around the prison quite a lot, and it is very old. The slopping out and sanitary arrangements are very archaic.”
As a category C prison HMP Blundeston houses prisoners who cannot be trusted in open conditions, but who do not have the resources and will to make a determined escape attempt.
The date and further details of the closure of HMP Blundeston have yet to be confirmed and no decision on the future of its buildings has been made.
As well as HMP Blundeston prisons at Dorchester, Northallerton and Reading are set to be closed to save £30m a year will be cut from the overall prison budget
The closures forms part of the next stage in the government’s prison modernisation programme, which was set out yesterday.
It includes confirmation that a planned new 2,000 place prison will be built in Wrexham, north Wales, and the news that the government has started feasibility work on a second large prison to be constructed in the south east of England.
The four closures brings the total number of prisons closed since May 2010 to 16, with another two being opened over the last three years