A leading prisons academic has set up a petition calling on the Government to publish the economic case for the transformation of Hindley’s jail. Dr David Scott from the Open University is one of two lecturers and researchers who started the campaign on change.org asking justice secretary Liz Truss to openly state the benefits the Government believes the work on the prison will bring.
The Government is investing £1.3bn in the custody system, with Hindley one of four prisons set to be either rebuilt and probably expanded or constructed from scratch. This follows hard on the heels of the opening of HMP Berwyn in North Wales, one of Europe’s largest jails holding 2,000 inmates. The petition claims Ms Truss has said the extensive refurbishment programme will provide an “economic lifeline” to communities including Hindley but the researchers say they are sceptical and are demanding proof. The petition reads: “There is no evidence that any new prison would provide such benefits. Despite repeated requests for the information on which their claims are based, the government has yet to present any evidence.
“Far from providing ‘an economic lifeline’ any new prison will have hidden consequences and harms for the people living near and very little, in the end, to benefit them.
“Studies of the economic benefits to prison towns in the USA have shown that prisons very rarely create wealth for communities surrounding a new prison. In fact, they often do the opposite, certainly in terms of reducing the value of property next to a prison. It is often national or international corporations who reap the profits of a prison (re)build.
“More prisoners will place increased stress on local National Health Service resources. More prisons means more pressure on the ambulance service.
“We the undersigned request that the government publish any and all evidence for its claims that new prisons will provide economic growth.”
The petition also calls for a 2013 economic impact report on new jails to be made public by ministers. Dr Scott recently addressed around 40 people at a public meeting in Wallgate pub Little Fifteen about the Hindley prison which was organised by the borough’s branch of Momentum and attracted support from Jan Cunliffe of joint enterprise campaign Jengba.
To see the petition search for Release the Information on Economic Benefits of Prisons NOW! at www.change.org