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Dorset Police Commissioner's dismay at prison closure

I am disappointed and dismayed with the Justice Secretary’s decision to close HMP Dorchester. Only six weeks ago, we welcomed the decision to designate HMP Dorchester as a resettlement prison for the county’s offenders. It would have allowed us to support the rehabilitation of offenders back into the local community and to reduce incidents of reoffending.

I am concerned that this decision will have a negative impact on the county’s ability to proactively work with partners to rehabilitate offenders. It will also impact on future opportunities in restorative justice which provides insight to offenders on the impact of their crime whilst giving control back to victims.

I will be writing to the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling to express my dismay at his decision and will be lobbying the government for clarity around future resettlement arrangements for Dorset in light of this decision."

– Martyn Underhill, Dorset Police & Crime Commissioner

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Work to close prison will begin 'immediately'

The Ministry of Justice said work to close HMP Dorchester will begin immediately and it is expected to shut close at the end of the year.

Everything will be done to avoid compulsory redundancies and our intention is for all staff to be redeployed to alternative roles in the prison estate or, if necessary, offered the opportunity to leave on voluntary terms.

Offenders housed at Dorchester will be moved to other suitable prison accommodation.

Decision to shut prison 'not taken lightly'

This decision was not taken lightly and is in no way a reflection of the hard work and commitment of staff, nor of the prison’s performance.

However, we cannot shy away from the fact that funds are limited and we need to make sure we are running prisons as efficiently as we can to maximise value for the taxpayer.

This will clearly be a difficult time for everyone involved and we will do all we can to offer support and ensure the prison continues to operate safely and securely in the run-up to closure.”

– Prisons Minister Jeremy Wright

Dorchester prison to shut

Dorchester Prison. Credit: Chris Ison/PA

The Ministry of Justice has announced the closure of Dorchester Prison.

It is part of the Government's prison modernisation programme to replace old and outdated estates.

A planned new 2,000 place prison will be built in Wrexham.

A feasibility study has started on a second large prison to be constructed in the South East of England.

Read: Dorchester prison criticised

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SW prisons in shake-up

Seven jails in the South West are included in proposals to become 'resettlement prisons'.

The plans, which are being revealed by the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling on Thursday, will see the majority of offenders released from prisons in, or close to, the area in which they live.

  • Bristol
  • Leyhill in Gloucestershire
  • Exeter
  • Channings Wood in Newton Abbot
  • Guys Marsh in Dorset
  • Portland
  • Dorchester

Prisons shake-up plans are 'political'

While the Ministry of Justice focus on rehabilitation is welcome, today's announcement reflects the fact that these reforms are designed to meet political and ideological goals - not to improve public safety or deliver better value for the taxpayer.

The Government's efforts to ensure the vast majority of prisoners are released into their local area seem rooted in good intentions.

But attempting to shoehorn overcrowded jails into arbitrarily-drawn and oversized contract areas, simply to ease the privatisation process, will create serious problems unless we reduce the number of people our prisons are holding."

– ANDREW NEILSON, DIRECTOR OF CAMPAIGNS, HOWARD LEAGUE FOR PENAL REFORM

Prisons shake-up: Prison Reform Trust

Resettlement and rehabilitation do matter but until and unless you reserve prison for serious and violent offenders, you cannot hope to cut sky-high re-offending rates or maintain safe and decent regimes.

Given the pace and scale of change, ministers focused on developing the justice market could easily lose sight of the solutions that lie outside of prison bars in health, housing and employment."

– JULIET LYON, DIRECTOR OF THE PRISON REFORM TRUST

Idea of 'resettlement' prisons is a good one: Labour

The idea of resettlement prisons is a good one - prisoners being integrated back into communities where they have family and friends could lead to reduced re-offending and fewer victims of crime.

However, this is another example of reality being very different from rhetoric.

These plans amounts to a substantial reorganisation of our prisons system, and it's not clear how it will be funded.

Labour has consistently said that extending support for prisoners on sentences of less than 12 months is to be welcomed in theory.

But, in practice, it is another uncosted proposal from Chris Grayling.

An additional 50,000 offenders requiring support for skills, drug and alcohol dependency, behavioural problems, housing and jobs does not come out of fresh air.

– SADIQ KHAN MP, SHADOW JUSTICE SECRETARY
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