Press release

Modernisation of the prison estate

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

The Government has today set out the next stage in its prison modernisation programme, with confirmation that its planned new 2,000 place prison will be built in Wrexham, and the news that it has started feasibility work on a second large prison to be constructed in the South East of England. It has also confirmed opening dates for the new house blocks – mini-prisons – being built to create 1200 new places at four sites across England.

Image of prison

The feasibility study for the proposed second big new prison is focusing on the possibility of replacing the existing Feltham Young Offenders Institution with a large new adult prison and a new youth facility on adjoining sites in West London

At the same time the Ministry of Justice is moving to close four older prisons which are either expensive to run or need substantial capital investment in the next few years, and is changing the role of three others.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said:

“This is the latest part of our plan to modernise our prisons, bring down costs, but to make sure that by the next election we still have access to more prison places than we inherited in 2010. The Feltham site in West London is a very large one, and is an obvious option for a major new project to help meet the challenges we face in London and the South East.

“I’m also really pleased that we have reached agreement on the new prison in Wrexham. It will provide a real boost to the local economy in North Wales over the next few years, which is one key reason why the Chancellor has made sure we have the money for the project.

“Of course the reorganisation of our prison estate which we are undertaking means some difficult decisions – but we have to make sure that we have modern, affordable prisons that give the best opportunity for us to work with offenders to stop them committing more crimes when they leave.”

Secretary of State for Wales, David Jones said:

“The case for a prison in north Wales has always been strong, which is why I am delighted that Wrexham has been selected as the preferred site for the newest addition to the prisons estate.

“The construction of this much needed facility will bring with it considerable economic benefits for local businesses, and create up to 1,000 employment opportunities across the region. It will facilitate the rehabilitation of offenders by making them more accessible to their families ,legal advisers and the probation service, enabling a smoother transition back into the community. It will also benefit prisoner welfare by allowing Welsh speakers more opportunity to speak the language in an environment where its cultural significance is understood.”

Since January 2,800 unstrategic and uneconomic places have been removed and the Ministry of Justice is now in a position to close a further four prisons, removing 1400 uneconomic places from the estate.

By closing HMPs Blundeston, Dorchester, Northallerton and Reading it is anticipated that a further £30m a year will be cut from the overall prison budget.

To ensure that the prison estate meets wider Government needs, HMP The Verne will be converted into an immigration removal centre, providing around 600 additional places to hold immigration detainees awaiting removal from the country. HMP Downview will change function to hold male rather than female offenders and HMYOI Warren Hill will stop holding young offenders and will also change to hold adult male prisoners.

Discussions will also begin to end the lease on HMP Dartmoor. Final decisions on the site are a long way off as the lease has a ten-year notice period but the age and limitations of the prison mean that it does not have a long-term future in a modern, cost-effective prison system.

These changes form part of our overall plans that will reduce the cost of prison to taxpayers by more than £500m within this Spending Review period.

In October we will announce the outcomes of the Transforming Youth Custody consultation and the review commissioned by the Justice Secretary to ensure we best meet the needs of women.

Notes to editors:

  1. On 27 June the MoJ announced plans to build a new prison in north Wales. The former Firestone site in Wrexham has been chosen as the site for the new prison. Having secured a £250m investment, work will begin next summer, pending approval.

  2. In January 2013 the MoJ announced plans to build four new mini-prisons (known as houseblocks) at HMPs Parc, Peterborough, the Mount and Thameside. The mini-prisons will be able to hold up to 1,260 prisoners and will replace older, more expensive prison capacity. The Mount is on track to accept prisoners in September 2014, with the remainder due to come on stream thereafter. In addition 180 new places will also be opened at HMPs Rochester and Bure this year.

  3. The four prisons due to close are HMP Blundeston, a male category C prison in Suffolk; HMP Dorchester, a male category B local prison which holds young adults in West Dorset; HMP Northallerton, a male category C prison in North Yorkshire; and HMP Reading, a male prison holding young adults and remands in Reading.

  4. The three prisons being re-rolled are HMP Downview, a female prison holding adults and young people in Surrey; HMP The Verne, a male category C prison in South Dorset; and HMYOI Warren Hill, which holds male offenders under the age of 18 in Suffolk.

  5. Discussions will begin with the Duchy of Cornwall to end the lease on HMP Dartmoor, a male category C prison in West Devon. Final decisions on the site are a long way off as the lease has a ten-year notice period but future options for the site will be discussed.

  6. For more details please contact the Ministry of Justice press office on 020 3334 3536.

Published 4 September 2013