04/09/2013 07:45 BST | Updated 04/11/2013 05:12 GMT

Prison Closures Slammed As 'Absolute Disgrace' That 'Will Not Reduce Crime'

REX Features

The government's plan to close a further four prisons and build two new "super" jails has been slammed as an "absolute disgrace" that will "do nothing for the rehabilitation revolution".

Blundeston prison in Suffolk, along with Dorchester, in West Dorset, Northallerton in North Yorkshire and Reading prisons will close, while a 2,000-place new prison in Wrexham, North Wales, will be built.

A second large prison could also be constructed in the south east of England, which may replace the Feltham Young Offenders Institution in west London.

But Peter McParlin, the chairman of the Prison Officers Association, said the announcement was "short sighted".

"The Government prison closure policy is cuts driven and does nothing for the rehabilitation revolution. These prisons have played a pivotal role in the criminal justice system and this announcement is an absolute disgrace."

Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, added that closing jails and building super-size ones "will not reduce crime or make communities safer".

"You can and should modernise the prison system without throwing taxpayers' money down the prison-building drain.

"There are enough prison places currently to hold the comparatively small number of serious and violent offenders who need to be behind bars.

"The prison population fell by over 3,000 in the past 12 months when rates of crime also dropped by nearly 10%.

"Smaller prisons tend to be safer and more effective than larger establishments, holding people closer to home and with a higher ratio of prison staff to prisoners.

"Prison ought to be an important place of last resort in our justice system, not a giant economic regeneration or job creation scheme."

The Ministry of Justice also confirmed opening dates for new "house blocks" - mini-prisons - being built to create 1,200 new places at four sites across England.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said: "This is the latest part of our plan to modernise our prisons, bring down costs, but to make sure that by the next election we still have access to more prison places than we inherited in 2010.

"The Feltham site in West London is a very large one, and is an obvious option for a major new project to help meet the challenges we face in London and the South East.

"I'm also really pleased that we have reached agreement on the new prison in Wrexham. It will provide a real boost to the local economy in North Wales over the next few years, which is one key reason why the Chancellor has made sure we have the money for the project.

"Of course the reorganisation of our prison estate which we are undertaking means some difficult decisions - but we have to make sure that we have modern, affordable prisons that give the best opportunity for us to work with offenders to stop them committing more crimes when they leave."

Blundeston, a male category C prison, Dorchester, a male category B local prison which holds young adults, Northallerton, a male category C prison and Reading, a male prison holding young adults and remanded prisoners, will close as they are either too expensive to run or need substantial capital investment in the next few years, the MoJ said.

It said that since January, 2,800 "unstrategic and uneconomic" places have been removed and the four new closures would remove 1,400 "uneconomic" places from the estate.

By carrying out the four new closures it is anticipated that a further £30 million a year will be cut from the overall prison budget, it said.

Three other prisons are due to change their roles, the MoJ announced.

HMP The Verne in South Dorset will be converted into an immigration removal centre, providing around 600 additional places to hold immigration detainees awaiting removal.

HMP Downview in Surrey will change function to hold male rather than female offenders and HMYOI Warren Hill in Suffolk, will stop holding young offenders and will also change to hold adult male prisoners, the MoJ said.

Discussions will also begin to end the lease on HMP Dartmoor.

Final decisions on the site are a long way off as the lease has a 10-year notice period but the age and limitations of the prison mean that it does not have a long-term future in a "modern, cost-effective" prison system, it said.