December 11 2013 Latest news:
Friday, October 11, 2013
A prisoner on a life sentence at Blundeston Prison, near Lowestoft, is preparing to take legal action to stop the site from being shut in a government cost-cutting measure.
A prisoner on an indeterminate life sentence has instructed a barrister to write to justice secretary Chris Grayling asking him to rescind the decision to close the category C jail and to halt plans to relocate its inmates.
Mr Grayling, whose department announced last month that the prison was to close as part of a government cost-cutting drive, must now reply to the sealed letter, which was sent on Tuesday. If he does not halt the closure process, the prisoner’s barrister will apply for an injunction to try and put a stop to his plans. Bob Blizzard, Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Waveney, has been in close contact with the barrister and said there were three strands to the prisoner’s argument as to why the prison should stay open.
He argues that the closure runs against guidelines for how therapeutic community sessions (attended by the inmate) should be run; that the government took the decision to close the prison without waiting for the latest report from the Independent Monitoring Board; and that there was a discrepancy over how much money has been spent or is being spent on the prison.
Mr Blizzard, who has sent a letter to prime minister David Cameron demanding the prison and its 230 staff be saved, said: “The prisoners at Blundeston are as upset as everyone else that the prison is to close. It could be seen as ironic that a prisoner wants to keep the prison open.
“It seems to me there is overwhelming evidence that the decision to close the prison has not been based on sound policy. To me, it is down to a blatant drive from a directive from the Treasury to try and save money.
“It is unfair to the hardworking staff, the prisoners and the local community that the prison is to close.”
Earlier this week, Mr Blizzard said information given to him by prison staff showed that some of this work had already been carried out, with £20m having been spent over the past two years, including £6.5m on a new laundry and £50,000 on night sanitation.
In a separate development, Waveney MP Peter Aldous has written to prisons minister Jeremy Wright asking for confirmation that the closure evaluation process was thorough and considered all other possible options. He has also asked for assurances that all necessary security measures will be in place to ensure against trespassing and vandalism once the prison has closed; whether other government departments could be interested in moving onto the site; an update on the progress of the redeployment process and a review of the procedures in place to announce closures of this kind. The government says the decision to close Blundeston Prison and three other jails was made following a thorough assessment by senior managers, and that this will save £30m a year in running costs.
A Prison Service spokesman said: “The decision to close HMP Blundeston was made following a thorough assessment by senior managers in the National Offender Management Service. It was based on a range of factors, including the suitability of the accommodation, and was not a reflection of the current performance of the prison or its staff.
“We need a fit for purpose, modern estate which provides prison accommodation at a much lower cost to the taxpayer and in the right places to deliver our ambition of reducing reoffending.
“Our aim will be to avoid compulsory redundancies by firstly redeploying staff and, if necessary, offering voluntary early departures to staff in affected sites and neighbouring establishments.”