A New Prison in North Wales

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A New Prison in North Wales

Post  MH on Thu 20 Nov 2008 - 8:48

The prison system is one area which needs to be adressed in Wales. North Wales currently has no prisons, and there is no women's prison anywhere in Wales.

I have copied the some relevant posts on the subject from the WalesOnLine forum.


MH, 9 Oct 2007, 11:29am wrote:I am by no means an advocate for a programme of increasing the number of prison places in the UK ad infinitum. The UK's prison population is far higher than it needs to be and, in my opinion, this reflects a systematic failure in our justice system.

Specifically, we need to use prison as a way of trying to solve the problems that draw people into crime, rather than just shutting people up in an environment where everything is so overcrowded and under-resourced that prison becomes a school for crime ... the very opposite of what it should be.

However, I am in favour of building a prison in North Wales, because the need for such a prison is becoming overwhelming. This has been a matter of debate for years, and now seems to be cropping up in the news every month or so. It is in the news again today:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/7034792.stm

The basic need is for prisoners to be able to serve sentences within easy reach of their homes. This is most emphatically not to make things easier on the prisoners. Instead it is to recognize that a prisoner's family is likely to be the most effective influence on their future behaviour. It is very difficult to look your mother in the eye when you've done something wrong. It is very difficult not to want something better for your wife and children when you're actually face-to-face with them for an hour a week. Isolation from family is a huge negative factor.

It appears that several locations are being considered at present: Flintshire, Wrexham, Anglesey and Caernarfon.

I think that the NE Wales locations are really just too close to the existing prisons in NW England. Slightly closer, yes, but no real answer to the problem of family journey times. Similarly Anglesea is just as remote in the other direction. So Caernarfon is the best of these four. Plaid have suggested that Blaenau Ffestiniog would be an even better location, but the principle is the same.

There is always going to be local opposition to a prison. But to those who actually want prisons to be "as far away from them as possible" I would simply say that we as a society have a responsibility to deal with our own criminals, not farm them off to Altcourse. Why should the people of Liverpool have to deal with a prison, but not us?
EagleDragon, 9 Oct 2007 5:41 pm wrote:The problem is who would want a prison in their town, this could be a case of 'not in my back yard'. I agree there should be a prison in the North, Wales also needs a womens prison as well.
MH, 6 Dec 2007, 12:19am wrote:I am dismayed by today's announcement that three super-prisons, or "Titans", are proposed at a total cost of more than £1bn, each containing 2,500 prisoners.

My thoughts were echoed on this evening's BBC news when Lord Ramsbotham, former Chief Inspector of Prisons said,


I hate Titans, I hate the thought of them ...
they are a complete reversal of ... the community
being involved in rehabilitation.
It is virtually unheard of for someone like this to come out with such strong condemnation of a government proposal.

This is completely upside-down thinking.

As I said at the start of this thread a few month's ago, we need to take responsibility for our own criminals in Wales. We know that devolution of the whole criminal justice system to Wales is a key part of the One Wales Agreement. This must include adequate prison provision. North West Wales is the obvious location for a prison with a capacity of about 500 inmates.
MH, 6 Dec 2007, 3:34 am wrote:This is a very interesting graphic from the BBC:



The two most overcrowded prisons, Shrewsbury and Altcourse (Liverpool) are close to the border of North/Mid Wales and take a high proportion of prisoners from North/Mid Wales. There are about 700 prisoners from North Wales in English prisons.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/north_west/7082409.stm

On top of that again, the "Titans" will take until 2013 to become operational, a smaller prison might be up and running in two or three years.

I would have though these facts would make a 500 place prison in North Wales a bit of a no-brainer.
Penddu, 6 Dec 2007, 1:20 pm wrote:Also noticed that two more of the most overcrowded prisons are in South Wales. Not sure what to make of it though....
MH, 6 Dec 2007, 3:59 pm wrote:
CSUKR wrote:
Penddu wrote:Also noticed that two more of the most overcrowded prisons are in South Wales. Not sure what to make of it though....
The English dumping their trash in Wales, like usual!
Although I'm sure that was meant to be a joke, CSUKR, in fact the opposite is true right now.

We are dumping our criminals in England. I can't find completely up to date figures, but these are the 2002 figures from Hansard:

3,358 male prisoners from Wales
63,814 total male prisoners in England & Wales

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200102/cmhansrd/vo020312/text/20312w32.htm
[at the bottom of the page]
That equates to 5.26%, which means that Welsh men are very slightly more law-abiding than English men. As the male prison population has now gone up to about 75,000, the male prison population from Wales is probably just under 4,000.

However, there are only 5 prisons in Wales, all in the South. These are their normal capacities (from the Carter Review) followed by their operational capacity (i.e. with current overcrowding):

Cardiff 524/754
Swansea 248/425
Parc (Bridgend) 968/1116
Prescoed 167/170
Usk 150/242

So, rounding the figures, we have a normal capacity of 2050, but have crowded in another 600 to house a total of about 2650.

I'm sure there are some prisoners from England in Welsh jails, but generally speaking we "dump" more than a third of our prisoners in England. So a North Wales male prison is the most obvious immediate need, but there is also a crying need for a women's prison, more juvenile facilities, and another men's prison in West Wales.

-

Even on a purely economic level, the current situation is unfair to Wales. Why should we let the UK Government pay warders and security staff in England, instead of paying people in Wales to do the job? Why should the English building industry get work instead of the Welsh building industry? And what about the indirect support jobs?

According to the North Wales Criminal Justice Board (follow the link in my last post), a North Wales prison would create 1,000 jobs and bring £17m to the local economy.
MH, 6 Aug 2008, 3:33 pm wrote:News today about a shortlist of sites for new prisons:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/welsh/hi/newsid_7540000/newsid_7545100/7545159.stm
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/north_west/7545134.stm
http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/2008/08/06/welsh-prisons-shortlist-revealed-91466-21476916/

Its good to see that there is finally some movement this. I think it is almost a certainty that Caernarfon will be chosen in the north. A 900 place prison is a little on the large side; I think 500 would be about right. I don't think large prisons are a good idea, especially in the less densely populated parts of Wales. Much better to have two smaller ones some distance apart than one large one.

That said, I sincerely hope it will not be financed and run privately. As a matter of principle, anything that involves compulsion without choice (and prison is certainly that) should be run directly by the state, not by private firms, no matter how strictly regulated. Also PFI is hideously expensive. But the decision will be made by a Westminster in which both the current Labour Government and the putative Tory replacement are ideologically committed to the private sector. So I'm not particularly hopeful.

In the south it unfortunately (for the reasons I've just given) seems inevitable that Parc will expand. Therefore I believe the second priority should be for a much needed women's prison. I think Cwmbran would be right for this, and a 200 or 250 place women's prison would almost certainly be more accepted locally than a huge men's prison.
Jason_Cardiff, 6 Aug 2008, 5:01 pm wrote:We need to move as many services we currently send to England into Wales as possible and North Wales needs to be given a large increase other wise you will end up with every thing in south Wales provisions must be made for North Wales also.
EagleDragon, 7 Aug 2008, 10:39 pm wrote:A site in North Wales preferably Wrexham would be the best choice. I can't see it being Caernarfon, it doesn't have a large population & small towns tend to have NIMBYs who will fight to keep anything like a prison away from their community.

If the One Wales Agreement is successful and criminal justice is to be devolved in Wales as it is in Scotland & Northern Ireland than surely a north Wales prison would be essential. We Welsh prisoners be sent to Liverpool if we had a different legal system? I can't imagine North Walians being too happy about being sent down South. The problem is the descision on where the new prisonis going too be built is down to the Home Office not the Assembly.
penygadair, 8 Aug 2008, 6:00 pm wrote:There already seems to be some resistance to Wrecsam both from local residents and from the local Labour M.P - Parachute Lucas who takes the view that the town has enough jobs already.

Caernarfon has the advantage of being a brownfield site about two miles east of the town and could draw labour from both Bangor and Caernarfon.

Its actually a no-win situation, families in the east will object to travelling west to visit the inmates and vice-versa.

Rhyl would of course be centrally placed on the north coast but recruitment might be difficult from the "can't work, won't work" brigade.
MH, 8 Aug 2008, 8:47 pm wrote:In the long term, North East Wales will need a prison. But in the short term, families in NE Wales do not have to travel very far to visit prisoners held in NW England. That's why I think Caernarfon is the best first choice.

I don't think the choice of site will cause much friction with the local population, and the £17m boost to the economy and 1,000 jobs will certainly bring some new dynamics to the area.
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Re: A New Prison in North Wales

Post  MH on Thu 27 Nov 2008 - 20:09

I thought I'd provide an update on the North Wales prison situation.

First, Gwynedd Council have reiterated their support for the Ferodo/Friction Dynamex site near Caernarfon, with an 8-3 vote.

http://www.wrexhamchronicle.co.uk/wrexham-news/wrexham-breaking-news/2008/11/05/give-prisoners-a-jail-near-home-88713-22189482/

Second, Wrexham seems to be much less keen on the old Firestone site, on the industrial estate to the east of the town.


Daily Post, 6 Aug 2008 wrote:
Wrexham MP Ian Lucas rounded on the proposals for the Firestone site and vowed to fight against them ... Mr Lucas believes picking Wrexham would defeat that aim and would also deprive other parts of the region of much-needed jobs.

"This is the wrong site for a North Wales prison for many reasons," he said.

"First, the site is as far away as it can be within North Wales from the main Court Centre at Caernarfon. The proposed site is very close to the English border and will not cut journey times for those currently travelling to North West England from North West Wales – one of the reasons why I had hoped a site in central North Wales would have been on the shortlist.

"Second, the current transport links are poor. The site is on an industrial estate away from the town centre with poor public transport connections. Although there has been a long running campaign to upgrade the road access to the industrial estate, we are still at the planning stage.

"Thirdly, we should be attracting industry to Wrexham’s Industrial Estate.

"Fourthly, there are other parts of Wales with far higher unemployment rates than Wrexham that would benefit from public investment of this nature."

[Source]
Meanwhile, a third option now sems to be gathering momentum, which is the disused mental hospital at Denbigh.



http://www.denbighshirevisitor.com/news/denbighshire-news/2008/08/27/former-north-wales-hospital-could-be-prison-site-105722-21615246/
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/7714106.stm

I'm not quite sure what to make of this. First, in terms of the current UK Government proposals there are only four shortlisted sites, the two in north Wales being Caernarfon and Wrexham. So it probably is too late to add this option, even if it were a good option in every other respect.

But, that said, it is probably a better option than Wrexham for these reasons:

1. People seem generally supportive of the idea, including 80% of local residents. [Source]
2. It is just about as close to the Mold Courts as Wrexham.
3. It is an existing building with a history of secure institutional use. It is certainly an impressive complex (Grade II listed) and it would be a great shame for it not to find a useful purpose. Whether a prison is the best option is a different question. It had been considered for housing.

My view is that the best site for the one new prison that the UK Government are currently proposing to build in Wales would be Caernarfon. At present most North Wales prisoners are held at Altcourse, and it is not so difficult for people in NE Wales to get there. It is a much bigger problem for those in NW Wales.

However, in the longer term, the "legal map" of Wales is due to change. Chester will no longer be part of the Wales circuit, and Yr Wyddgrug/Mold will take its place as the main courts centre in NE Wales, as Caernarfon will be in NW Wales. A prison is needed close to both, and Denbigh is just as good as Wrexham for the latter.

It appears the decision on the first prison lies in the hands of Justice Mininster David Hanson, the MP for Delyn, who is expected to make an announcement in January.

http://www.dailypost.co.uk/business-news/business-news/2008/11/15/decision-on-prison-to-be-made-in-january-55578-22262227/
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Re: A New Prison in North Wales

Post  Aderyn y Si on Thu 27 Nov 2008 - 21:24

The future of the North Wales Hospital has been a matter of debate for some time. Here are some links:

http://www.northwaleshospital.co.uk/index.htm

http://www.bbc.co.uk/wales/northeast/sites/northwaleshospital/

Only a few days ago (22 Nov) there was a fire which destroyed the roof of the main hall at the centre of the complex. The Fire Brigade believe the fire was started deliberately.



Daily Post report
BBC report

Although listed, the current planning application (not for a prison) had proposed that the main hall should be demolished.

http://planning.denbighshire.gov.uk/portal/ Ref: 01/2007/0750

Being cynical, the calls for the NWH to be used as a prison only seemed to come since the owners of the site announced they were abandoning the scheme for 280 homes due to the economic downturn. But any use is better than just letting the building continue to fall to pieces, as it currently is.
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new prison

Post  william on Sun 21 Dec 2008 - 23:37

Yes we need a new prison yes true who would want a prison in Caenarfon .Caernarfon is a tourist town i see we should feel sorry for the,familys of the people who ar in prison what about the victims familys there is no trail links the lack of council housing .there would be a heavy burden on the local hospital and the local council i can see no benifits for the local s.As a local rate payer no thank you or do we have to move .

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Re: A New Prison in North Wales

Post  MH on Mon 22 Dec 2008 - 15:38

Hi William, welcome to the forums. If North Wales does need a prison, as you say, I'd be interested to know where you would prefer it to be.

I wouldn't have thought a new prison would affect tourism much. The site being considered is the old Ferodo/Friction Dynamex site. It is an ex-industrial site, a few miles away from the town centre.

As for it being a drain on local resources, I would have thought it would be exactly the opposite. The Westminster government will be paying local people to do the job of keeping our own prisoners, rather than paying people in Liverpool to do the same job, as they do now. It will house prisoners who come from North Wales, and whose families already live in North Wales.

The other factor is that Caernarfon has now become the main court centre for NW Wales, with Mold being the main court centre for NE Wales. Again, that is another batch of jobs. It makes sense for a prison to be fairly close.
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Re: A New Prison in North Wales

Post  Aderyn y Si on Fri 6 Feb 2009 - 0:42

The announcement has been made today, and Caernarfon it is! You called it about right, MH. Just a week late with the timing!

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/7872135.stm

Not much detail about exact what will be built, nor when. I hope they don't decide to oversize it. 800 places may be needed in North Wales as a whole, but I'd not want to see a prison with more than 500 places.

Plus, if there's a chance, I'd like to see some thought given to whether separate facilities for women and young offenders (in another wing, or another part of the site) might be added.
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Re: A New Prison in North Wales

Post  MH on Fri 6 Feb 2009 - 3:15

I'll have to hone my arm-twisting skills. It would come in very useful to speed up the LCO process.

I agree, Aderyn. The WalesOnline version of the story specifically mentioned a women's section:


The timing of the new prison and whether it will be used to hold women have not been decided yet.

The Tories said they were disappointed that the Government had not made it clear whether female offenders would be sent to Caernarfon.

Shadow Welsh secretary Cheryl Gillan said: "Today’s announcement makes no indication of whether there will be women’s facilities. This is hugely disappointing as there are no women’s prisons in Wales. This means all Welsh women prisoners have to be held a long way from home."

Wales Online, 5 Feb 2009
I think there's a little bit of political opportunism here, because I've not heard that a women's prison was ever on the cards. But I would certainly welcome it. It would probably not need to house more than 50 or so women. You mentioned the Corston report in another thread ... how would a women's prison here fit in with its recommendations?

I think we need to now spend a few months looking in detail at how the prison complex would work, involving public input. Of course there have been consultations already, but so far they will have centred around whether of not this was the right place for a prison. Now that this decision has been made, the public will have a different set of concerns that can be summed up as: "Now that we've got it, let's make sure it's as good as it can be." One thing in particular that needs to be addressed is what it will look like, especially from the other side of the Menai. This is a tourist area, therefore it needs to be visually unobtrusive. I guess this can be dealt with under normal planning procedures.

Another thing that concerns me is who is going to build/operate it, and in particular whether it will be PFI.
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Women's prison

Post  Aderyn y Si on Mon 9 Feb 2009 - 17:14

MH, you asked about the Corsdon Report. The main point of that report was that prison was being used inappropriately, and that most women who are in prison shouldn't be. She did make one mention of Wales, saying that:

6.25 Two particular areas, Wales and Eastern Region have approached me about developing community centre provision in their areas and these would be good places to start. I was told that there are embryonic plans to build a women’s prison in Wales, which has never had a women’s prison before. I hope that the Welsh Assembly will be able to infuence these plans which I understand are for a large prison with 260 beds. I am sure that Welsh women in prison would welcome provision in their own country.

However, there are only about 170 Welsh women in prison at any one time and, unless the prison is to be multi-functional, they could not all be located there. The additional spaces would be flled by English women who would be even further from their homes and courts. I would urge the Welsh Assembly to opt for the package of measures that I propose, which would mean that women offenders at all stages of their sentence, whether being served in the community or in small custodial units, could stay in Wales throughout.

http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/documents/corston-report/corston-pt-2?view=Binary
In 2006 the number had gone up to 183. Only 23 were from North Wales, only 23 from Mid Wales, with the remaining 137 from the South. So a women's unit with 50 places in Caernarfon would probably be too big.

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmselect/cmwelaf/74/74.pdf [on page 24]

I think that a small separate unit on the Caernarfon site would be appropriate, maybe with 30 places, and I think there is consensus that any new women's prison would have mother and baby facilities. This shouldn't preclude building the community facilities Baroness Corston advocates as a better alternative to sending women to prison, but it recognises that sentencing policy hasn't yet changed and that, even if it does, there will always be a need to imprison some women.
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Re: A New Prison in North Wales

Post  MH on Tue 10 Feb 2009 - 2:51

Thanks Aderyn. I guess the only question to ask is whether it is a good idea for a women's prison to share a site with a men's prison. Would it be better for them to be completely separate?

I just looked at the Daily Post's version of the story.

Daily Post, 6 Feb 2009

Some people are talking about an 800 place complex. 600 men's places and 200 for women and young offenders. In my opinion this is all far too big and your figures for women confirm it. I heard that there only 120 male prisoners from Gwynedd, I guess there must be a similar sort of number from Ynys Mon and Conway, so it will be very hard to fill 600 places without importing prisoners from Fflint and Wrexham for whom Altcourse would be closer.

I can only assume that people in Caernarfon view the prison in terms of new jobs (both building and running it) and are now thinking, "the bigger the better".

Perhaps the only silver lining is that a large 600 place prison (which I guess would have 2 prisoners per cell) would turn out to be just about the right size with one prisoner per cell. Short term, Caernarfon will be importing prisoners from North East Wales to relieve pressure on England. Long term we would build another prison for North East Wales (close to Mold, the centre of justice for NE Wales) and adopt better sentencing policies in order to reduce re-offending, following best practice in most of Europe.

-

The other question to address is women's provision in South Wales. The Daily Post story says that the Cwmbran site will now be sold off (it was only bought by the Ministry of Justice in 2007). That seems to rule out any thoughts of building a women's prison there. There were heavy local protests and Torfaen Council objected because it had its own plans for the site. Perhaps Merthyr is still a possibility.
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Re: A New Prison in North Wales

Post  Aderyn y Si on Tue 10 Feb 2009 - 17:34

Perhaps, in an ideal world, it would be better to build a women's prison on a separate site. But that would take a lot of planning.

As things are, the authorities have gone through a long process of choosing a site (and happily made the right choice) which has involved lots of public and local council consultation. You'd have to go through all of that again for a separate site.

So I think it's better to build women's and youth facilities on this site. It's large enough. And there would be certain economies of scale with some shared administration, etc. Also, if we put women's and youth offenders' facilities on site, it means that the men's block will be smaller than it might otherwise be.
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Youth Offender Places

Post  Aderyn y Si on Tue 10 Feb 2009 - 18:18

I thought I'd add this (from Welsh Prisoners in the Prison Estate), because it gives an idea of the number of young offenders there are in Wales:

There are few places in Wales for juvenile offenders (under 18 years old): the Youth Justice Board contracts for 36 places for juveniles at HMP/YOI Parc and 14 places at Hillside Secure Centre, Neath, S. Wales. These accommodated a small proportion of the 178 Welsh children and young people who were held in the secure estate, either sentenced or on remand, as at 24 November 2006.

Juvenile offenders from Wales were held at 25 establishments, with the largest number being held at Ashfield (82) and Stoke Heath (17) Young Offender Institutions (YOIs) in England, and Parc (20) YOI in Wales. The Youth Justice Board told us in evidence that an additional 28 places for juveniles were being provided at HMP/YOI Parc from February 2007, and that discussions are taking place with the Welsh Assembly Government to identify further options for increasing provision in Wales. However, even given the increased capacity at HMP/YOI Parc, this will mean that, at least in the short term, approximately half of juvenile offenders from Wales will need to be held in England.

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmselect/cmwelaf/74/74.pdf
There is no breakdown of how many of this 178 are from North Wales, but Ashfield is near Bristol and Stoke Heath is in Shropshire. The overall number is vitually the same as that for women, so it would be a fair guess that the breakdown would be about the same, i.e. no more than 25 from North Wales and 25 from Mid Wales, with the remainder from South Wales.

If it were up to me, I'd build facilities for 30 women and 30 youth on the Caernarfon site. I certainly wouldn't go above 50 for each. The idea of 200 combined places for women and young offenders (as mentioned in the Daily Post) is crazy. Ed Beltrami of the North Wales Criminal Justice Board simply can't have done his sums!
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Re: A New Prison in North Wales

Post  sionnyn on Wed 6 May 2009 - 19:56

Without local prisons, we cannot strive to self determination. If someone from Caernarfon has to travel to Walaton to see their loved one, then the sense of alienation from the rule of law (of eveybody concerned!) is certain to be strengthened! It is a horrible journey, especially if you have little financial resources. How are we going to re-integrate felons into society if we make it that hard for their loved ones to see them?

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Re: A New Prison in North Wales

Post  Gwas-noweth on Sun 11 Jul 2010 - 23:16

sionnyn wrote:Without local prisons, we cannot strive to self determination. If someone from Caernarfon has to travel to Walaton to see their loved one, then the sense of alienation from the rule of law (of eveybody concerned!) is certain to be strengthened! It is a horrible journey, especially if you have little financial resources. How are we going to re-integrate felons into society if we make it that hard for their loved ones to see them?

Yes, if Wales were to ever become independent criminals couldn't be sent all the way to south Wales or handed over to English prisons. The problem is like this thread mentions, who wants a prison in their own "back yard", if a prison was built in you town how do you think old people, mothers, and the like would react?

I'm sure there are some prisoners from England in Welsh jails, but generally speaking we "dump" more than a third of our prisoners in England. So a North Wales male prison is the most obvious immediate need, but there is also a crying need for a women's prison, more juvenile facilities, and another men's prison in West Wales.

I've always liked the idea of penal colonies, you know they're out-of-the-way, they make the criminals work and they can hold a lot of criminals. The only things with this though is 1) where would it go and 2) It would need strict policing to make sure nothing like torture went on.

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