U.K. to Open New Prisons, Shutter Outdated Facilities

LONDON — On Nov. 9, Her Majesty’s Prison Service in London announced plans to construct nine new prisons throughout England and Wales in an effort to reform prison programming. Five of the new prisons will be open before the end of the current parliamentary session.

Chancellor George Osborne and Justice Secretary Michael Gove announced in a statement that the reforms will ensure Britain’s prison system is fit for 21st century justice and detention programming, and that the new prisons will allow the government to close antiquated Victorian-era facilities located in city centers and sell the sites for housing development.

“One important step will be to modernize the prison estate,” Chancellor Osborne said in a statement. “So many of our jails are relics from Victorian times on prime real estate in our inner cities. So we are going to reform the infrastructure of our prison system, building new institutions, which are modern, suitable and rehabilitative.”

Selling the prison properties will free space for the construction of an estimated 3,000 new homes, and the 169-year-old Reading Prison in Reading will be the first facility put up for sale. The prison officially shuttered in late 2013 due to site limitations that prevented substantial improvement or modernization efforts.

The prison service announced that approximately 10,000 inmates will be relocated from the outdated facilities to the new prisons upon their completion, significantly improving rehabilitation and saving an estimated £80 million (approximately $86.2 million) per year due to reduced operational costs. However, the move is about reform as much as it is about savings.

As currently half of all inmates re-offend within one year of their release and nearly half of all inmates lack educational qualifications, investments will also be made in preventing and reducing recidivism.

“This investment will mean we can replace aging and ineffective Victorian prisons with new facilities fit for the modern world,” Secretary Gove said in a statement. “We will be able to design out the dark corners, which too often facilitate violence and drug-taking. And we will be able to build a prison estate, which allows prisoners to be rehabilitated, so they turn away from crime.

“It is only through better rehabilitation that we will reduce reoffending, cut crime and make our streets safer,” Secretary Gove added.

The government also plans to complete a new prison now under construction at Wrexham and expand existing prisons in both Stocken and Rye Hill.