UK Justice Secretary Unveils Prison Construction Plans

LONDON — England and Wales are set to build four new jails with a combined capacity of 5,000. Planned for Yorkshire, Wigan, Rochester and Port Talbot, the projects build on the UK government’s commitment to create up to 10,000 modern prison beds by 2020, all aimed at reducing overcrowding and creating the right conditions for reform.

The London office of Justice Secretary Elizabeth Truss unveiled the construction plans on March 22. When complete, the new facilities will replace old and overcrowded prisons buildings at an estimated cost of approximately by £1.3 billion (approximately $1.63 billion). Construction is also expected to create up to 2,000 construction jobs and generate millions of pounds to British economy. Final decisions on the new prisons, however, will be subject to planning approvals, as well as value for money and affordability.

“We cannot hope to reduce reoffending until we build prisons that are places of reform where hard work and self-improvement flourish,” Truss said in a statement.

Outdated prisons, with dark corridors and cramped conditions, will not help offenders turn their back on crime, Truss added in a statement, nor do they provide professional and dedicated prison officers with the right tools or environment to do their job effectively. As such, this significant building program will not only help create a modern prison estate where whole-scale reform can take root, but will also provide a thriving, economic lifeline for the local community — creating hundreds of jobs for local people and maximizing opportunities for businesses.

This whole-scale, organizational reform will be supported by measures within the Prisons and Court Bill, which will set out a new framework and clear system of accountability for prisons, building on the wide-ranging reforms set out in the Prison Safety and Reform White Paper, according to a statement issued by Truss’ office. A program of valuation work will now begin to help inform further decisions about existing facilities, and announcements on specific prison closures will be made later in the year. The announcement builds on ambitious reforms to improve safety in prisons, including an additional £100 million ($125.6 million) to bolster frontline staff by 2,500.

Other work taking place to expand and enhance prison infrastructure includes HMP (Her Majesty’s Prisons) Berwyn, a new and modern prison in north Wales. The facility, which will hold more than 2,000 inmates, just opened and the construction project contributed upwards of £100 million ($125.6 million) to the local economy and created roughly 150 jobs and apprenticeship positions. Prison construction is also underway on a new housing block at HMP Stocken and planning applications have been made to redevelop the former HMP Wellingborough and HMP and YOI (Young Offenders Institution) Glen Parva.