The government has announced the construction of a titan prison to be built in North Wales that will cost a quarter of a billion pounds and house 2,000 inmates.
With the prisoner population having climbed from 43,000 in 1993 to over 83,000 by mid 2013 we need somewhere to put them while we incarcerate 148 people per 100,000, which is far higher than both France (101) and Germany (80). And it now costs more than Â£37,000 to house a prisoner for a year.
But the announcement comes despite the comments made by the Tory leadership before the last general election in 2010.
David Cameron in the Guardian 2009 – “The idea that big is beautiful with prisons is wrong."
Conservative Party, Prisons With A Purpose (2008) – “smaller local prisons instead of the ‘titan’ prisons proposed the Government… Our preference is for smaller, local prisons, which provide better rehabilitation outcomes.”
Nick Herbert MP, then Shadow Justice Secretary, The Guardian (2008) – “Huge prisoner warehouses — the largest in Europe — are not the right answer. What's needed is a network of smaller, local prisons with better integration with local communities and a new focus on reducing reoffending so that we can arrest the growth in the prison population in the right way.”
Edward Garnier MP, then Shadow Justice Secretary, The Guardian (2009) – “Jack Straw [the justice secretary] insisted that the design for three Titan prisons was predominantly based on cheapness rather than value for money and also that they should be designed to accommodate more than 2,500 prisoners. They are designed for overcrowding before they dig the first foundations; that to us is ridiculous. Experience suggests to us these large prisons are dangerous and inefficient.”
Edward Garnier MP, then Shadow Justice Secretary, Daily Telegraph (2009) – “Whatever they call these enormous prisons, they are the wrong answer to the wrong question. They will not provide the answer to prison overcrowding; they will not allow for local imprisonment; they will not assist in the rehabilitation of offenders; and they will inevitably fail to deal with the outrageously high recidivist rates that we have seen under this Government.”
Responding to the announcement Andrew Neilson, Director of Campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said:
“The idea that big is beautiful with prisons is wrong. Not our words, but those of David Cameron before he became Prime Minister. This U-turn on pouring cash into a huge unwieldy prison is a titanic waste of money that puts public safety at risk.
“All evidence shows that larger jails find prisoners more difficult to control, drug abuse and violence are more prevalent and opportunities for education and training are limited in such crowded environments. It should come as no surprise that half of those leaving prison are reconvicted in a year. With the number of people in prison doubling in the past twenty years, the priority should be on finding more effective and lower cost alternatives to prison, especially for those who have committed non-violent crimes.”
“If the Government wants to spend Â£250m on boosting employment opportunities in North Wales, there are much better ways of doing that than a huge jail that will mainly house English prisoners.”