Some welcomed the prospect of new jobs but others didn’t want their community to be a ‘dumping ground’ for criminals
Port Talbot people have been giving their opinions on plans for a new prison to be built nearby.
The UK government announced earlier today that a publicly-owned site in Baglan will be home to a category C prison as the Government steps up its drive to reform the crisis-hit jail system.
Community leaders say the the prison will be built, subject to planning consent, on Welsh Government-owned land at Baglan Industrial Estate, which was previously home to a Panasonic factory.
Labour Aberavon AM David Rees and MP Stephen Kinnock welcomed the prospect of new jobs to the area but some residents said they were not prepared for a new prison to be built within their community.
One Port Talbot resident Helena, who did not wish to give her last name, said: ”No one is happy about it. We don’t want to be a dumping ground for the criminals.”
But another added: “If and when the time comes we have a right to object and I’m sure it will come in masses. This being said if they can find a suitable location it will create a lot of jobs in the local area as well as adding value to the area with people using local businesses.”
The facility is expected to create 200 new long-term jobs once it has been completed, while the construction will lead to around 1,000 jobs.
Plaid Cymru AM for South Wales West Bethan Jenkins, whose office is in Baglan, says she “cannot welcome the news”.
“Building a new prison in isolation to looking at new ways of helping to ensure people do not re-offend, to realise the error of their actions, and addressing why so many people with mental health problems are in prison, is a sign of bad government and poor strategy from the Tories,” she said.
“We need to look at prison reform, not just build new prisons and assume that it is the only answer. So I cannot warmly welcome this news today.
“Plaid Cymru has been calling for the devolution of these matters for some time. Decisions about Wales, about Welsh prisoners, should be made in Wales.
“The Ministry of Justice must answer key questions on this scheme. It’s vital that the safety of the local community will not be compromised by this plan. There is a new super school in Baglan, and a new Welsh Language School is yet to be developed there. The area already has huge traffic problems that the council are failing to deal with. What will throwing a prison in the mix mean?
“If this is to go ahead, assurances are needed on private sector involvement in the proposed Port Talbot prison. Evidence shows that when private companies are contracted to be responsible for prison security, the safety of both staff and inmates is compromised. This must not be allowed to happen.”
Steven Phillips, chief executive at Neath Port Talbot Council released a statement to all councillors.
He said: “I am writing to inform you that the Secretary of State for Justice has this morning made a written statement to Parliament announcing proposals to build four prisons across the United Kingdom, including one at Baglan (what we know as the Panasonic building on the Baglan Industrial Estate).
“I am aware from enquiries received from a number of members that the story has been circulated on social media for some days; but only now has confirmation been received.
“The announcement is, of course, subject to planning consent which will be handled in the normal way. More widely, council officers will be engaging with the UK and Welsh Governments on these proposals – not least because the site in question is in the ownership of the latter.”