HMP Glen Parva

Overview

HMP Glen Parva was the second prison announced for replacement with a mega-prison. Documentation for the planning application can be found online at: http://www.blaby.gov.uk/resident/planning-and-building/planning-application-search/. The planning reference number is 16/1672/OUT

The new prison is set to cost £170m to build and will incarcerate a massive 1,617 people. It is meant to employ 809 staff.

Similar to Wellingborough, the consultation was a tokenistic endeavour: a poorly advertised event took place at a nearby community centre. Only nine comment forms were completed. The planning application was rubber stamped on the 23rd December, just before residents were distracted with Christmas, and did not even appear online until mid-January.

The Environmental Impact Assessment for the prison stated that the construction of the proposed development could result in a direct pollution impact, with run-off from construction activities entering the nearby Grand Union Canal. This could result in the death of aquatic organisms and aquatic and terrestrial vegetation which could, in turn, disrupt a locally important habitat corridor. The prison also has the potential to adversely impact roosting and commuting bats making use of the site, as well as hedgehog and toad habitats. The assessment also flagged up contamination risks to soils and groundwater, stating that future site users could come into contact with localised shallow contaminants.

The last prisoner left in June 2016 and demolition crews were set to move in6. However, no work took place until April 2018. Local people wondered if the project had been abandoned by a government U-turn. Sadly this wasn’t the case: in April 2018, the next phase of planning paperwork was submitted. The objections had clearly had an effect. The new team of contractors had to supply endless paperwork on remediation strategies, dust management and more. A detailed construction timeline was also submitted and can be found on the online planning portal.

About the Existing Prison

The existing Glen Parva complex opened in 1974. Until recently it held only younger inmates. In 2015, the site was meant to be the location for a ‘Secure College’; basically a prison for 320 children aged 12-17. Thankfully, the plans were scrapped due to a national policy U-turn. As a Young Offenders institution, many sad and disturbing stories haunt its walls. Jake Foxall, a 19-year-old from Oxfordshire, killed himself in the winter of 2015 after being bullied in the prison. Earlier that year a 20-year-old Liam Lambert was found hanging.

Many staff will be retained to work in the new prison. The most recent inspection report in 2015 highlighted that over half of prisoners felt unsafe. The prison was also failing at organising education and skills training, and as a result prisoners were subject to a huge amount of time locked in their rooms. Self-harm had also increased.

Why Leicestershire?

Like Wellingborough, HMP Glen Parva is already a prison town. Residents are normalised to the prison and their relationship to it as a provider of employment. Leicester is one of the most diverse cities in the country, with many minorities negatively impacted by the prison system but the actual prison site lies just outside the city in a small parish which is 91% white and has a majority conservative council.

Resistance

Shortly after the announcement, some more radical-leaning local people organised a film showing of the US documentary ‘13th’ about mass incarceration and prison labour. This event was the springboard for a new group, Leicester Prison Resistance, who went on to organise further events and workshops about the prison system. They demonstrated at the planning committee meetings, as well as flyering half of the parish of Glen Parva to help generate objections to the new prison. 67 letters of objection were received. The local newspaper reported that local people are concerned about noise, light pollution, congestion and being potentially over-looked by prisoners. Many also complained on environmental grounds and for ethical reasons (though these aren’t recognised by our archaic planning system).

Leicester Prison Resistance do their best to work with people affected by the criminal justice system, including organising an event as part of the ‘Support Don’t Punish’ global day of action about the decriminalisation of drug use. They are now working with Midlands Anti Expansion Network.