Send us your pictures, video, news and views by texting DST to 80360 or email us
Government defends decision to close Northallerton Prison
THE Government has defended its decision to close one of the country's best performing prisons.
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling's announcement on Wednesday that HMP Northallerton would close as part of a plan "to modernise our prisons and bring down costs" caused consternation as the jail had been given the highest performance rating by inspectors and was judged to be cost-effective.
Mr Grayling said building modern jails, including a "super-prison" in North Wales, would help rehabilitate offenders and bring down high re-offending rates.
However, the most recent Prisons Inspectorate report, in 2011, stated the East Road jail, which holds up to 253 category C adult and young offenders, was an "impressively safe and respectful establishment, with plenty of activity and a sound focus on resettlement".
Nick Hardwick, chief inspector of prisons, said: "Accordingly, if performance is to be a determinant of future closures, the prison’s future ought to be assured.
"Northallerton is a case study of the benefits that can accrue from having a small prison, with a population drawn mostly from the local area."
The Ministry of Justice said today (Thursday, September 5) the principle reason behind the prison's closure was due to having an over capacity for both adult inmates and young offenders in the region.
A spokesman said: "We currently have enough places for young adults across the estate and locally enough adult places in the North-East.
"The decision to close HMP Northallerton follows concerns around the limited size of the site, which leaves little scope for development and does not provide a suitable environment in which to deliver modern prison services."
A spokesman for Prison Officers Association (POA), which held a protest outside the jail this morning (Thursday, September 5) said it appeared that the Ministry of Justice was backtracking over its reasons for closing the prison, which has 138 staff.
He said: "The Ministry of Justice is clutching at straws.
"Only in the last couple of years we have seen the prison population in this region rise and fall, with prisoners having to sleep in police cells.
"We will do what we can to get the Ministry of Justice to change the decision and will raise the issue again with the constituency MP William Hague, who appeared sympathetic and concerned when we met him last week."
Prison officers said there had been a mixed reaction from inmates to the jail's closure, including "a few minor incidents".
One officer said: "The inmates have been upset. The prison is a small community and some of them don't want to move because they will feel vulnerable in other prisons and not receive the same level of support they do here.
"A lot of our [prison] population comes from the North Yorkshire area and therefore much of the prison budget goes on discouraging reoffending in this area, while their family visits and ties to the area are a key factor in reducing their chances of slipping back into crime.
"Moving inmates away from Northallerton will be detrimental to their rehabilitation."
Mr Hague's office did not respond to The Northern Echo's requests for a comment.
Comments are closed on this article.