Where are the new ‘Mega Prisons’ going to be built?
Data released by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has revealed possible locations for new prisons. The information was made public following a request from Dr David Scott on behalf of campaign groups Reclaim Justice Network and Manchester No Prisons.
This new data provides a list of Local Authorities in England and Wales that submitted plans to the MoJ in 2016 regarding suitable land for building a new prison in their area and gives an indication of where new prisons may be built. The list, however, is incomplete and campaigners are critical about the secrecy surrounding the government’s £1.3bn prison building programme.
20 of the Local Authorities that submitted plans to the Ministry of Justice in 2016 regarding suitable land for building a new prison in their area have been revealed:
1. Bassetlaw District Council
2. Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council
3. Braintree District Council
4. Cheshire West and Chester
5. Corby Borough Council
6. Derbyshire County Council
7. Derbyshire Dales District Council
8. East Riding of Yorkshire Council
9. Hinckley and Bosworth Borough Council
10. Kent County Council
11. Lancaster City Council
12. Northamptonshire County Council
13. Rhonda, Cynon, Taff County Borough Council
14. Rossendale Borough Council
15. Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council
16. Stafford Borough Council
17. Swale Borough Council
18. Tendring District Council
19. Tunbridge Wells Borough Council
20. Wellingborough Borough Council
Dr David Scott of The Open University speaking on behalf of Reclaim Justice Network and Manchester No Prisons, said:
“Although this is only a partial list of the submissions, it is significant that the 20 Local Authorities are concentrated in certain regions. The South East of England, East Yorkshire and the North West of England are all well represented. Alongside this, there is also a strong correlation between the disclosed list of applications and Ministry of Justice records on the most overcrowded prisons in England and Wales.
“Whilst there are other Local Authorities that have submitted plans (and presumably these are the councils most likely involved in discussions with government), if we read between the lines we can perhaps assume that the next three proposed mega prisons – each housing up to around 2,000 prisoners – will be located in regions that correspond with the highest prison crowding rates in England and Wales.
“Given the historic failings of the prison to meet its rehabilitation goals and the current tightening of government budgets, when it comes to dealing with overcrowded prisons the most sensible and rational approach is to reduce the prison population. We should not be spending taxpayers’ money on new super-sized prisons but rather reinvest the proposed money to help ordinary people in the community and ensure that all people have access to decent health care, welfare provision and education.”
Pressure is mounting for the government to halt the £1.3bn prison building programme. Organisations, including Reclaim Justice Network, INQUEST, Smash IPP, British Society of Criminology and the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies are calling for a moratorium on prison building.
Dr David Scott works at the Open University. He has been researching prisons for more than 20 years and has published 8 books on prisons and punishment. Contact: 07838245382
Reclaim Justice Network is a collaboration of individuals, groups, campaigners, activists, trade unionists, practitioners and researchers and people most directly affected by criminal justice systems, who are working together to radically reduce the size and scope of criminal justice systems and to build effective and socially just alternatives. Contact:
No Prisons Manchester is an organisation fighting against a proposed mega-prison in Manchester and the expansion of the Prison-Industrial Complex generally.
(1) The full information request and response can be viewed here: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/local_authorities_that_submitted
(2) The recent disclosure of 20 Local Authorities who have submitted proposals was released in line with Regulation 2(1) (a) of the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR).
(3) Writing on behalf of the MoJ , Miranda Wilkinson maintained that although it is important to promote the transparency of public affairs and demonstrate that local authorities are acting in the interests of the taxpayer, under the public interest test it was considered important to withhold some of the councils who submitted plans so that there could be “a ‘safe space’ in which the early stages of discussions of this nature can be carried out between the Council and government officials without the inhibiting threat of premature publicity”.
“Premature disclosure that the Council(s) in question have been in correspondence with the MoJ, about something as potentially emotive as the location of a new prison, would likely result in prolonged diversion of resource from service delivery to handling enquiries from the media and concerned stakeholders, who may wrongly conclude that our assessment of potentially suitable sites is more detailed or advanced than is the case.”
Other negatives of announcing the possible locations of the new prisons were highlighted when explaining non-disclosure. “Potential investment in their areas may be delayed or abandoned if it was wrongly felt likely that a prison in their area is certain or imminent. This has commercial implications for other organisations concerned, their communities and the Council itself.”