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Prison Accommodation

Volume 499: debated on Wednesday 11 November 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what recent steps his Department has taken to improve prison conditions. (298214)

The National Offender Management Service has a statutory duty to hold all prisoners in decent conditions.

We plan to increase the capacity of the prison estate to 96,000 places by 2014 through an extensive capacity programme. Since April 2007, 5,370 places have been delivered under the core capacity programme. The new buildings produced by the capacity programme are providing modern, fit for purpose, accommodation.

On 27 April 2009, Official Report, column 569, my right hon. friend, the Justice Secretary (Jack Straw) announced that, instead of building three 2,500 place prisons, we plan to build five 1,500 place prisons. The 7,500 places provided by these new prisons will allow for the closure of up to 5,000 of the most worn out, inefficient places. Initially we will build two new 1,500 place prisons and close 500 places. These measures support our aim, not only to provide additional capacity, but to modernise the estate and improve the quality of accommodation and other facilities.

For existing accommodation, we have a rolling programme of refurbishment and a reprioritised maintenance programme that allows the critical maintenance of the estate to be undertaken and general improvement to buildings and conditions, as funding permits. We take into consideration the recommendations made in Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons, Independent Monitoring Board, Measuring the Quality of Prison Life and Audit reports and take action where appropriate.