Construction Begins on Welsh Super Prison

WREXHAM, Wales — Construction work began earlier this month on the about $332 million prison in Wrexham after Wrexham Council’s planning committee approved plans for the prison on Nov. 3. The super prison will be the largest in England and Wales and will house 2,100 Category C male offenders.
According to the Ministry of Justice, there are 83,632 prisoners in England and Wales, and there will be a predicted population of 90,900 by 2018. The super-size prison will help provide space for the growing inmate population.
The prison is being constructed on a 108-acre, former Firestone site and will be the first in North Wales. The location will allow adult male offenders from the region to be held closer to home, which is an important factor in reducing reoffending, reported News North Wales.
Welsh Secretary David Jones told BBC News, “[The prison] 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.”
Although Wrexham Council approved the plans, several councilors voiced concerns about the prison plans and how they would affect the community. The government agreed to several concessions that the community had. For instance, they agreed to plant extra trees and boundaries to screen the prison. Plus, there will be extra car parking and a bus service to the prison.
The prison is said to create about 1,000 jobs in the area, which will provide long-term financial security. New North Wales reported that there has already been interest from businesses throughout the area, and the benefits will be worth around a fifth of the total contract value, about $47 million spent on local businesses.

As construction for the new prison takes off, plans for closing four prisons — Reading in Berkshire, Dorchester in Dorset, Blundeston in Suffolk and Northallerton in North Yorkshire — are also underway. There are also plans to replace Feltham Young Offenders Institution in London, according to BBC News.
Last November, an article by the Institute of Welsh Affairs was published, raising questions about the benefits of the prison. After taking into account that the Category C classification will eliminate several non-eligible Welsh prisoners to be held in the facility, Author Robert Jones wrote that the proposed super prison will “result in a situation whereby only 500 Welsh prisoners are in fact held there. This would help to create a situation whereby almost three quarters of the prison’s population are in fact from England.”
Jones is not the only one to dispute the building of the new prison. When plans for the giant prison were announced back in January 2013, several organizations and U.K. prison workers protested, saying that the job losses from prison closures would affect local economies in those communities.
“Closing prisons and reducing prison numbers offer major social and economic gains, but it would be a gigantic mistake if the Justice Secretary were to revive the discredited idea of titans and pour taxpayers’ money down the prison building drain, when the Coalition Government could invest in crime prevention, health care and community solutions to crime,” said Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, a charity that works to create a just and effective penal system, in a statement.
Apart from the effect it may have on local economies, the issue of security was also up for debate, with several representatives on the opposition side believing that smaller facilities provide the security and support to avoid reoffending prisoners. “Small community prisons tend to be safer and better at reducing reoffending than huge anonymous establishments,” Lyon said in a statement.
Despite the opposition to the Welsh prison, it is scheduled to be operational by 2017, and London-based Lend Lease is serving as the contractor on the project.