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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

Full report: Changes to West Country prisons

It's been confirmed that Dorchester Prison is to close and discussions are underway to end the lease at Dartmoor Prison.

Elsewhere, Portland's Verne Prison will be turned into an immigration detention centre.

The former Victorian military barracks, transformed into a jail more than 60 years ago, will become a Home Office immigration unit housing people waiting to be removed from the UK.

Duncan Sleightholme reports:

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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.

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Response from Prisons Minister:

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 meeting the needs of the prison population, as well as wider Government needs, in the most efficient way so as to maximise value for the taxpayer.

We will do all we can to offer support and ensure the prison continues to operate safely and securely in the run-up to the change in role.”

– Prisons Minister Jeremy Wright.

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
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