Kingston Prison in Portsmouth to shut

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Kingston Prison in Portsmouth is to be closed down by April.

The jail in Milton Road is one of seven in England to be closed, with two more partially shut, the Ministry of Justice has announced today.

Kingston Prison

Kingston Prison

The government says that axing the ‘old and uneconomic’ prisons will save £63m a year - but a Portsmouth MP warned that it could put 100 jobs at risk in Portsmouth and threatened the local economy.

The Ministry said it also plans to build a new ‘super prison’ with 2,000 places - around 600 fewer than the capacity of the jails being closed.

The new prison - which would be Britain’s biggest - will be built in either London, north-west England or north Wales, the MoJ said.

As well as Kingston, the jails to close are Camp Hill on the Isle of Wight; Bullwood Hall in Essex, Canterbury, Gloucester, Kingston in Portsmouth, Shepton Mallet in Somerset and Shrewsbury.

Prisons in Chelmsford and Hull are to be partially closed.

There are 115 prison staff working at HMP Kingston, with around 200 prisoners in its cells.

Mike Hancock, Portsmouth City Council’s cabinet member for planning, regeneration and economic development, and the MP for Portsmouth South, said its closure would be a blow to the local economy.

He said: ‘It would be a disaster for those prison officers locally who work there, and the other staff there.

‘A lot of them have been there for a long period of time.

‘Then there are the other businesses which supply the prison, which will now not be able to do so.

‘Once again it’s a blow to the economy.’

The acting governor of Kingston, Martin Hatch, said: ‘Clearly this is a sad day for HMP Kingston prison as we have been proud to protect the public and help reduce re-offending for so many years.

‘We understand that this is absolutely not a reflection of our performance.

‘I know that everything possible will be done to avoid compulsory redundancies by seeking to redeploy staff to other establishments and by using the Voluntary Early Departure Scheme where appropriate.

‘Work will also now begin to identify new allocations for prisoners which take account of their sentence plans and particular needs as far as is possible.

‘I can assure the local community with whom we have worked so closely for so long that public protection will remain our priority throughout the closure process.’

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said: ‘We have to bring down the cost of our prison system, much of which is old and expensive.

‘But I never want the Courts to be in a position where they cannot send a criminal to prison because there is no place available.

‘So we have to move as fast as we can to replace the older parts of our prison system.

‘That’s why we are moving ahead with immediate plans for new prison capacity, as well as closing older and more expensive facilities.’

Kingston Prison is a listed building, built in the 1870s and has a classic Victorian radial prison design.

For many years, it exclusively held inmates serving life sentences.

For the past 10 years, it has had a more general use housing Category B and C prisoners, although it’s ‘lifer’ population remains higher than most other jails.

Those prisoners will now be relocated to other jails nearby, but the closest of those, Camp Hill on the Isle of Wight, is also to be partly shut.

That decision was criticised by Isle of Wight MP Andrew Turner, who said: ‘I will be seeking an early meeting with the Secretary of State to discuss the implications this will have on the Island’s economy, what can be done to support staff affected by the closure and the future of the actual buildings and grounds at Camp Hill.

‘I will also be asking for meetings with the Prison Governor and members of staff to discuss the issues.’

Meanwhile the Prison Officers’ Association was due to meet with the chief executive of the National Offender Management Service to protest against the closures.

Its general secretary, Steve Gillan, said: ‘We will be telling him that in our view this is not needed, and it’s devastating not just for the staff but for the prisoners as well, because they’ll be moved from their families into an already overcrowded prison system.’