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Astonishment as Government proposes closing women's jail
A WOMEN'S prison – one of the country’s leading resettlement jails – is to be closed in a series of measures designed to improve the resettlement of female offenders.
The Ministry of Justice today (Friday, October 25) announced its reforms for female offenders, which include closing the nation’s only two open prisons for women, including HMP Askham Grange near York.
All jails for female inmates will be now turned into resettlement prisons, which the Government say will enable them to serve their sentences closer to home and maintain family relationships, particularly with children.
The proposals involve closing HMP Askham Grange in North Yorkshire, HMP East Sutton Park in Kent and the Mother and Baby Unit at HMP Holloway and refurbishing three existing prisons to ensure there are enough prison places for female offenders. HMP Downview in Surrey will be converted to a male prison.
There will also be an increased emphasis on equipping female offenders with skills to find employment on release.
Frances Crook, chief executive of the campaign group, the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “It’s complete nonsense.
“They’re closing the only two women’s open prisons so men can go to an open prison and women can’t.
“The Government papers released talk about resettlement; but as there will only be ten women’s prisons, how will it be possible to be closer to home? It’s nonsense."
She said she was also concerned over the closure of the mother and baby unit currently open at Askham Grange, along with the unit at Holloway. She said it will also mean babies and young children being separated from their mothers at a younger age and said “babies will suffer as a result”.
Askham Grange can currently accommodate ten mothers and allow them to care full-time for their children. In closed prisons, children are taken away earlier from their mothers so they are not deprived of experiences and exposure to the outside world that enable them to develop properly.
The Prison Officer’s Association (POA) said it was “astonished” at the announcement Askham Grange may close.
Steve Gillan, general secretary of the POA, said: “We’re astonished they are closing Askham Grange. This announcement was very much a surprise to the Prison Officers’ Association.
"Askham Grange was doing tremendous, outstanding work in resettlement. The expertise in that resettlement will now all be lost.”
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