December 10 2013 Latest news:
Monday, September 16, 2013
Closing a north Suffolk prison is the “wrong decision”, the government has been warned.
Waveney MP Peter Aldous has written to the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling to express his disappointment at the planned closure of Blundeston Prison, near Lowestoft.
Mr Aldous composed the letter after speaking to prison staff at a meeting in Blundeston.
In his letter to Mr Grayling, Mr Aldous re-emphasised his disappointment with the decision to close the prison and said he remained “very concerned and disappointed” about “how this decision was reached and its impact on the Lowestoft area”.
Mr Aldous said: “Closing Blundeston is the wrong decision, which has been made following a flawed evaluation of the prison estate which failed to take account of the outstanding work carried out there.
“It is imperative that all is now done to achieve the best possible outcome for those who work there and this will be the focus of my attention in the coming weeks.”
The HM Inspectorate of Prisons last week made public the findings of an unannounced inspection at Blundeston Prison earlier this year.
The report said improvements have been made in many areas at the prison but significant concerns remained.
Nick Hardwick, chief inspector of prisons, said that Blundeston was found to be safer, but bullying was an issue and health care was poor.
The report’s publication comes just a week after the government announced that Blundeston Prison was to close – possibly by the end of the year – with the loss of 230 jobs.
Speaking about the newly published report, Mr Aldous added it was “purely coincidental” that it had been released shortly after the announcement, and that it merely stated “there are issues to address” which was already known.
After the closure plans were revealed, Bob Blizzard, the Labour Party’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Waveney, sent a letter to Prime Minister David Cameron, asking him to look at the wider issues of the proposed closure, to review the decision of the Ministry of Justice and give an assurance that the government would not move the Cefas fisheries laboratories out of Lowestoft.
He said: “Someone has to stand up for the prison and our local area. I believe that if the wider picture of the impact on our local economy is considered, Blundeston should stay open, as the staff were previously promised.”
At the time of a previous inspection in 2011, inspectors concluded standards at Blundeston were falling.
The latest report found that the decline had been halted in most areas, and that conditions for prisoners were improving. However, particular concerns were highlighted – including the fact that reported bullying incidents were double the number at comparable prisons.
HMP Blundeston 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 elsewhere in the area with many being sent to Warren Hill near Ipswich – a young offenders’ institute which is set to become a adult prison.