Titan Prisons in the UK
The modern move toward titan prisons in the UK was first put forward by the Labour government in 2008 with Justice Minister Jack Straw and Prime Minister Gordon Brown intending to push ahead with the construction of three new prisons with the capacity to hold 2,500 prisoners in each.
The plans met with great opposition, not least from that governments Chief Inspector of Prisons Anne Owers. In April 2009, Jack Straw conceded defeat and abandoned the plans with Tory MP (now Attorney General) Dominic Grieve asking, ‘has he run out of money or has he run out of spin?’. At the time, current Prime Minister David Cameron was also critical of titan prisons.
Yet now they are very much back on the agenda with planning permission being granted in January 2014 for a Category C prison with the capacity to hold 2,100 adult male prisoners in Wrexham, North Wales.
About the North Wales Prison
The prison will cost £250 million to build and has been described as a ‘titanic waste of money‘ by the Howard League for Prison Reform.
It will be built on a former firestone site on the Wrexham Industrial Estate. The finished prison will cover up 76,370sqm of floor space containing 13 buildings and have a height ranging from 8.5m to 15.5m.
The Ministry of Justice has not commented on if the prison will be run publicly or privately. However it is highly likely that a private company will run the prison. Read more here about why private prisons are problematic.
Why is it being built in Wrexham?
There are currently no prisons in north Wales and research shows that inmates incarcerated closer to home are less likely to re-offend benefiting from being nearer to friends and family making it easier for them to visit inmates. There are a number of reasons as to why this argument is unlikely to ring true.
Studies have shown that prisons with a capacity of 400 or less are far less likely to see prisoners re-offend following release. Prisons with a capacity of up to 800 inmates are generally more violent and riot prone, whilst also being understaffed and are more likely to see inmates committing suicide and self harming.
(It should be noted that CAPE is a group in favour of prison abolition and does not advocate for the construction of prisons regardless of their size.)
In terms of Welsh prisoners Plaid Cymru Westminster leader Elfyn Llwyd has said that across mid and north Wales the ‘demand’ for prison places is usually somewhere between 500 and 750. This means that only a quarter of inmates at Wrexham will be Welsh. With most of the rest likely to be English or Foreign Nationals and will be imprisoned far away from their friends and family.
Who is building it?
Australian contractor Lend Lease was awarded the contract to build the Wrexham titan prison by the government in May 2014.
As well as being a Tory Party donor, Lend Lease recently attained notoriety when it was fined $54 million after a three year investigation by the FBI that proved that they had defrauded the public purse whilst working on projects in New York including the 9/11 Memorial and Grand Central Station.
Lend Lease have said that over 1,000 jobs will be created and at that 80 percent of work would go to local Wrexham businesses. However critics have said that the actual number could be as little as 10%.
In July 2014, Lend Lease held an open day in Wrexham inviting over 250 small to medium sized local businesses along to discuss the project. However ‘local’ has been extended out to include places such as Liverpool and Manchester. Of the subcontractors so far confirmed to be working or have already worked on the project only one even has an office in Wales.
Outline planning permission was granted in January 2014 and preparation work began on the site in September 2014 starting with the erecting of the security fence.
Work has since stopped while the council reconsiders aspects of the planning relating to layout, landscaping and parking. A decision was meant to have been reached by Wrexham council on Monday the 7th October but was instead deferred when councilors requested more information to be provided.
How can we stop it?
Visit our what you can do page to learn how to get involved.