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Prison Capacity Management

Volume 548: debated on Tuesday 17 July 2012

The Government are determined to provide a fit-for-purpose modern custodial estate that can deliver high quality, cost-effective and secure regimes that protect the public and reform prisoners. While the prison population temporarily rose as a result of last summer’s civil disturbances, since April it has resumed falling. New modern prison places in the private estate at HMP Oakwood and HMP Thameside have begun to come on stream so that we now have an opportunity to close some of our more expensive and superfluous prison places.

I am therefore announcing the closure of HMP Wellingborough which will see a reduction of 588 prison places.

On Friday 13 July the gap between the prison population and our useable capacity stood at 3,500 places. The prison estate in England and Wales has not operated with this degree of headroom since early 2011 and there is more unused capacity in the prison estate now than there was before the announcement in July last year to close HMPs Latchmere House and Brockhill, or prior to the serious public disorder in August 2011.

Capacity continues to grow with the number of available prison places planned to reach 91,600 by the end of the year. This will ensure that our operational capacity continues to take account of prison population projections in a way which meets the need both for greater efficiency and ability to support a strengthened focus on protection of the public and rehabilitation.

The closure of these places will provide estimated cost savings of over £10 million in annual running costs and avoid significant capital costs on refurbishment of up to £50 million in the next few years. We would expect to be able to absorb most staff displaced by this process elsewhere in the system and to avoid the use of compulsory redundancies wherever possible.