Blundeston prison closure is criticised in monitoring report

Blundeston Prison September 2013. Photo: MIKE PAGE Blundeston Prison September 2013. Photo: MIKE PAGE

Tuesday, March 18, 2014
6:30 AM

The decision to close Blundeston prison has been criticised by an inspection body that says more than £10m had been spent on the north Suffolk site in the three years prior to it shutting.

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Blundeston prison, near Lowestoft, closed in December as part of a government cost-cutting measure with most of its 100 prison officers and 130 staff relocated to Norwich and Bures prisons.

Today a report by the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) has been published which says in the three years up to its closure more than £10m was spent at the category C prison on new heating and roofs with further money invested on a new laundry and £80,000 spent on a welding workshop which was never used.

The IMB says the closure of the 50-year-old prison resulted in the loss of “constructive rehabilitation” and “unique therapeutic community” work.

Its report says: “The whole closure was very upsetting for staff, especially as they wondered what more they could have done to provide a good regime for prisoners.

“It would seem to the IMB with all the qualities of Blundeston prison and all it had to offer together with all the recent expenditure on new structures that the wisdom of the closure must be in question.”

The report says a lack of cell sanitation was a major factor in the decision to close the prison, but added it caused fewer problems to prisoners than expected.

Peter Aldous, Waveney MP, said: “We need a more open process of looking at the future of the prison estate.”

Bob Blizzard, Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Waveney and who had run a campaign to keep the prison open, said the closure was a “scandal” and it had “severely damaged” the local economy and the lives of prison staff.

The Ministry of Justice said it wanted to close Blundeston and three other prisons nationally to save £30m a year in running costs.

A spokesman said: “The decision to close Blundeston was made following a thorough assessment by senior managers in the National Offender Management Service and was based on a range of factors, including the suitability of the accommodation.

It was not a reflection on the hard work and commitment of staff working there.”

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