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."
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.
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
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