MP quashes fears of new Staffordshire prison

Source: http://www.expressandstar.com/news/2016/04/01/mp-quashes-fears-of-new-staffordshire-prison/

An aerial view of Featherstone Prison

South Staffordshire MP Gavin Williamson said there had been fears a new prison could be built in the village next to the prison complex comprising HMP Featherstone, HMP Oakwood, and YOI Brinsford.

Although he said there was ‘no foundation’ to the rumours, he vowed to fight any plans to add to site if they were to emerge.

He said: “South Staffordshire already has the highest prisoner population per parliamentary constituency and I see no reason why that should increase further.

“Featherstone has a huge prison complex including the country’s biggest jail in HMP Oakwood.

“While I am not opposed to the existing prisons making the most of their current capacity, I am dead against any proposals that would see the building of new wings or a new prison built altogether.”

It was revealed this week that up to 500 extra prisoners would move to HMP Oakwood with its capacity increasing to 2,100 from 1,600.

The Ministry of Justice and operator G4S are converting some single cells to accommodate two inmates.

It is part of a major redevelopment plan of the country’s prisons.

Mr Williamson said that empty land next to the prisons had sparked concerns locally that the Ministry of Justice may look to build another prison or extend significantly.

He said: “I have had a number of concerned constituents contact me over this matter.

“There is a fair bit of land around the periphery of Featherstone next to the current prison compound.

“I want to reassure my constituents that bar the increase in capacity of HMP Oakwood, I know of no plans to add to the existing prisons in the village.

“I think we have more than enough on that site as it stands and it would be an unfair burden on my constituents if there was to be further expansion.”

The Ministry of Justice said it had no plans to build a new prison at Featherstone.

Currently every prisoner at HMP Oakwood has his own cell, with a toilet, shower, underfloor heating, and landline telephone. But that will change as part of this move. In recent weeks extra beds have been moved into some cells.

The move is part of the Ministry of Justice’s prison improvement scheme which is seeing £1.3 billion invested to replace ageing and ineffective jails.

New prisoners will start to move to the jail from July.

When it opened in 2012 three -and-half years ago, Oakwood was hailed as a trailblazer and a model for future prisons. It also boasted being the country’s cheapest prison, costing about £12,000 per prisoner a year rather than the £20,000 for the average category C jail.

But run by the scandal-hit global security firm G4S, it quickly beset by suffered a series of problems. There was a damning report where prisoners said it was easier to get hold of drugs than soap, it earned the moniker ‘Jokewood’, and prisoners ran riot amid a mutiny after staff lost control of one of the wing in January 2014. But recent inspections have said the jail is improving.
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