Northallerton in shock over decision to close 230-year-old prison (From Darlington and Stockton Times)
Send us your pictures, video, news and views by texting DST to 80360 or email us
Northallerton in shock over decision to close 230-year-old prison
A COUNTY town left reeling following crippling public sector job losses has been rocked by a decision to close the oldest prison in the country.
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling announced today (Wednesday) that HMP Northallerton, which inspectors have graded as being among the country’s best prisons, was among four jails which would close by March and be replaced with a “super-prison” in north Wales.
He 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 closures mean 1,400 prison places will be lost in England and Wales while the new £250m prison in Wrexham will hold more than 2,000 inmates.
Campaigners said replacing old prisons with new, bigger, ones would make them harder to manage and would not reduce crime.
The Prison Office Association’s (POA) North East and Yorkshire spokesman Terry Fullerton said he feared the Northallerton closure would put pressure on other prisons in the region and members would hold branch meetings outside the gates of every jail in the country tomorrow (Thursday).
He said: “This decision makes no sense as Northallerton is not in disrepair and is a high-performing centre.”
HMP Northallerton, which was built in 1783, houses up to 252 inmates, including adult offenders serving six years or less and in the last two years of their sentence and young offenders.
There are 190 people employed at the prison, including 138 Prison Service staff and a further 52 workers, such as health visitors.
While a core of the staff live in the Northallerton area, the vast majority commute to the jail from the Darlington and County Durham areas.
The loss of a further 190 public sector jobs from Northallerton comes three weeks after the Government announced 400 jobs being relocated with the closure of the nearby Rural Payments Agency and Natural England office.
North Yorkshire County Council, which is based the town, has shed more than 1,300 jobs in the past three years following Government cuts and there is a warning there are more to come, and North Yorkshire Police has unveiled plans to move its headquarters from Newby Wiske, near Northallerton.
It is understood the prison’s governor, Chris Dyer, had been unaware of the decision and called a full staff meeting yesterday (Wednesday, September 4) to inform workers.
Stuart Brown, of Northallerton POA, said he expected the prison to close within three months.
He said: “The announcement was met with an eerie silence and people were naturally upset and worried for the future.
“The Prison Service will do all whatever they can to relocate people, but it’s a naturally upsetting time.”
POA members met Richmond MP William Hague last Friday (August 30) to discuss concerns over the prison’s future.
Mr Hague, who agreed to raise the issue with Mr Grayling, was unavailable for comment today, but the leader of Hambleton District Council Councillor Mark Robson said the decision was a “devastating blow which had come out of the blue”.
Mayor of Northallerton, Councillor John Forrest, a former prison officer at the jail, said he feared the town would only be left with shops.
He said: “They are kicking the heart out of the county town.”
Coun Robson said he would be pressing the Government to make a quick decision about the future of the prison site.
He said: “We will be working close with the community to help in whichever way we can and look at all the options for this site.”
North Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Julia Mulligan said she feared that the county was being unduly targeted by the Ministry of Justice.
She said: “This closure will not only have an economic impact on Northallerton, but will mean families have to travel many more miles to visit loved ones in prison.”
Comments are closed on this article.