Camp Hill prison on the Isle of Wight is to close.
CAMP Hill prison, part of HMP Isle of Wight, is to close.
The announcement was made by Secretary of State for Justice Chris Grayling today (Thursday).
He said the decision to close Camp Hill, along with eight other sites, was aimed at cutting costs and improving accommodation suitability.
Isle of Wight MP Andrew Turner said the decision was very disappointing and he was concerned about the impact on the local economy.
He is seeking a meeting with Mr Grayling to discuss the impact on the Island, what support there will be for staff and what will happen to the Camp Hill buildings.
The prison, which was built in 1912 and opened by Winston Churchill, holds around 600 prisoners and became part of HMP Isle of Wight in 2008, along with Parkhurst and Albany.
In his statement Mr Grayling said: "Our strategy for the custodial estate is to ensure that we have sufficient places to meet the demand of the courts whilst securing best value for money for the taxpayer.
"My intention is to have more adult male prison capacity available than we had in 2010 but at a much lower unit and overall cost.
"Our strategy for achieving this is to replace accommodation which is old, inefficient or has limited long-term strategic value with cheaper modern capacity which is designed to better meet the demand for prison places and supports our aim to drive down stubbornly high reoffending rates.
"I am also announcing today that the Government is to start feasibility work on a new prison that could hold more than 2,000 prisoners – around a quarter more than the largest current facility.
"At present, we have buildings within the prison estate which date back to the 18th Century. Prisons are not all located where we would want them to be to best meet the needs of the courts or support resettlement and there is an annual maintenance cost of approximately £184m.
"There is clear evidence that by replacing old uneconomic places with modern prison capacity we can drive substantial savings for the taxpayer and I am determined to do just that.
"Last year we opened a significant amount of new accommodation including 1,600 places at HMP Oakwood in the West Midlands. The average cost at Oakwood is £13,200 per place. This is less than half the average cost of existing prison places, and sets the benchmark for future costs. In order to further drive down unit costs in prisons, I can today announce that we plan to significantly increase capacity at four existing prisons by building additional houseblocks to provide up to 1,260 new modern and cost effective places.
"Our current intention is that new accommodation will be built at HMP Parc in Bridgend, HMP Peterborough in Cambridgeshire, HMP The Mount in Hertfordshire and HMP Thameside in London.
"These houseblocks, along with Oakwood, which is now reaching capacity, represent over 2,800 new places. "This provides the opportunity to close excess capacity elsewhere in the estate.
"I am therefore announcing that we will close around 2,600 old and uneconomic places through the closure of six prisons and the partial closure of accommodation in three other sites.
"The decision to close, or partially close places in these establishments is based on the suitability, sustainability and the cost of this accommodation.
"Closures form just one part of our strategy to improve the operation of our prison estate and drive down the costs to the public. We will also decommission 200 contractually crowded places at private prisons, which are not currently needed.
"We will continue to ensure that our estate reflects prison population demands, and in line with the falling population in the youth estate, I can also announce that we intend to negotiate a change to the function of HMYOI Ashfield and re-role it to a prison to hold adult male prisoners.
"I intend to work with the Youth Justice Board to review the operation of the youth estate to ensure that it provides effective education and training for young people whilst delivering value for money to the taxpayer.
"Furthermore, I am conscious that women offenders have particular needs and that the custodial female estate should be organised as effectively as possible to meet gender specific requirements whilst also delivering best value for the public.
"I have therefore asked officials to undertake a review of custodial arrangements for women. I expect this review to be completed by the summer.
"As part of our strategy to modernise the estate and significantly reduce unit and overall costs, I have asked officials to explore options for building a new prison to enable us to accelerate the closure of uneconomic capacity across the rest of the estate.
"We will consider the feasibility of sites in the North West, North Wales and in London in line with demand for places in these regions and I will provide further details to the House as this work progresses.
"Overall, this capacity reduction will save £63 million per year from the cost of running our prisons.
"These savings are in addition to the plans we have already set out to the House for how we propose to make significant cost reductions over the next few years through the application of an efficient benchmark for all public sector prisons, and through further competition of services.
"This Government is determined to ensure that we have a resilient custodial estate with sufficient capacity available to meet the demands to imprison those committed by the courts.
"We also intend to ensure that the cost of a prison place is dramatically reduced. The strategy I am outlining today will help achieve both these aims."
Mr Turner said: "This is very disappointing and I am of course very concerned about this announcement and the ramifications for Island residents and the local economy. However, at least we are not suffering full closure of HMP Isle of Wight.
"The future of the national prison estate has been under review because keeping prisoners in ageing buildings presents particular challenges and they are very expensive to run and maintain.
"Camp Hill was built in 1912 and houses category C prisoners who do not require the same levels of security as the category B prisoners in Albany and Parkhurst.
"The Government believes that wherever possible prisoners should be incarcerated close to the communities they come from to enable them to keep in regular contact with their families which is considered important for their rehabilitation.
"Of course a very low number of prisoners in HMP Isle of Wight are actually from the Island and family visits from the mainland can be problematic due to the cost and difficulty of getting here.
"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."
*HMP Isle of Wight governor Andy Lattimore said: "Clearly this is a sad day for HMP Isle of Wight as Camp Hill has 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 within HMP Isle of Wight and to establishments on the mainland, 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."