March 9 2014 Latest news:
By Anthony Carroll
Friday, December 20, 2013
An end of an era will be marked at Blundeston prison on Monday with a flag-lowering ceremony and a march by officers and staff.
The closure of the prison – which opened in 1963 – comes despite a determined campaign to save it.
There are now concerns over the future of the site, with calls for local people to be “fully involved” in the decision-making process.
When news of the prison’s closure was announced by the Ministry of Justice in September, it was described as a slap in the face for its staff and a disaster for the local economy.
There are suggestions the site will be redeveloped for new housing, although the Ministry of Justice said this week that it was too early to say what would happen to it.
Graham Wade, chairman of Blundeston Parish Council, said that if homes were to be built on the site, he hoped its redevelopment benefited the community in the long-term.
Waveney MP Peter Aldous, who said closing the prison was “the wrong decision”, said: “The closure of Blundeston prison is very much an end of an era.
“The way that the decision was made and announced was unsatisfactory and I am very much aware of the distress caused to staff and their families. It is now important that decisions are made quickly on its future use and the local community, through Blundeston Parish Council, are fully involved in this process.”
Bob Blizzard, Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Waveney, said: “The closure represents a black cloud over our area with lots of job losses and empty buildings that would seemingly now have no use.”
As well as a local campaign, a legal challenge was made by an inmate at Blundeston to keep the prison open on the the grounds that the closure ran against guidelines on how the therapeutic community sessions he and others attended should be allowed to continue to run. However, the man later dropped his challenge.
There were more than 100 prison officers and a further 130 staff at Blundeston, which had a capacity for 526 inmates and a 60-bed wing for those serving life sentences.
Most of the officers have relocated to Norwich Prison or Bures Prison in Norfolk, and inmates have been relocated to other prisons across East Anglia.
The Ministry of Justice says the closure of Blundeston and three other UK prisons – all said to be either too expensive to run or needing major investment – will help it save about £30m a year.