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Plans for new Port Talbot prison blocked by Welsh Government

The Ministry of Justice is spending £1.3 billion replacing old prisons with new ones in England and Wales. Credit: PA

Plans for a super prison in Port Talbot appear to have been blocked by the Welsh Government.

It owns the proposed site at Baglan and said it "will not facilitate" any new prisons in Wales until the Ministry of Justice has agreed to meaningful talks about the penal system.

Demands for the devolution of policing and criminal justice, bringing Wales into line with Scotland and Northern Ireland, have been rejected by the UK Government.

But the Welsh Government has gone ahead with its own Commission on Justice to look into how a devolved system should operate.

I am concerned that without a meaningful in-depth discussion with the UK Government, we will continue to see increasing demand on Welsh public services and poorer outcomes for people in the criminal justice system in Wales. I am particularly concerned that some of the men and women in Wales who are sent to prison, are not receiving the services and support they need to ensure that they can be effectively rehabilitated and supported not to re-offend.

Whilst we wait for the Commission on Justice to reach its conclusions, we need to press ahead with developing a different and distinct delivery approach that reflects the needs of people in Wales.

Until we have considered this in more detail and had more detailed discussions with the UK Government, I do not believe it is in the interests either of the Welsh Government or people in Wales, to see further prison development in Wales. I have therefore written to the Secretary of State for Justice to inform him that until a more meaningful dialogue with the Welsh Government takes place, we will not facilitate the further development of prisons in Wales.

– Public Services Secretary Alun Davies AM

Mr Davies said Welsh prisons need to relate better to public services and policy approaches in Wales, including what could be done to prevent many people being sent to prison. He said short sentences often had a devastating impact on people's lives.

The Ministry of Justice says it remains committed to building a prison in Port Talbot, although the local council says it has chosen the wrong site. The Welsh Government's announcement was welcomed by the local MP.

I was surprised and a little baffled by the statement that was issued this afternoon by the Ministry of Justice. Last Tuesday two members of the Stop Neath Port Talbot Prison campaign committee and I met in Westminster with the prisons minister and his senior team, for what was a very constructive discussion. The minister made it clear that he had listened carefully to the concerns and arguments that we had been making for some time, and had therefore decided to place further plans for the construction of a prison in Baglan on hold.

– Stephen Kinnock, MP for Aberavon

Plaid Cymru has said that it should not be what it called a temporary reprieve but a complete ban on building new prisons until control of the criminal justice and penal system is devolved to Wales.