More than a quarter of the UK prison estate was built before 1900, and, while the number of inmates rises, prisons are facing challenges in terms of safety and living conditions. The previous government launched a plan to reform the prison estate, which included £1.3 billion to build new prisons, and the closure of older buildings, creating 10,000 spaces.
With this policy, the current government is taking forward that strategy of closing older prisons and building new ones.
In terms of progress towards fulfilling this policy pledge, in June 2018, the prisons minister Rory Stewart told the Justice Committee construction would begin on two new prisons by the end of the 2018 (a deadline apparently missed), although only one was to be publicly funded. He said:
“We are going to assume that we produce somewhere in the region of 2,000 places per prison.”
On the other hand, there are no new plans for the closure of older prisons, the modernisation programme does not have a budget attached yet, and a former Director of the Prisons Service has argued that the scheme as it stands faces a £1.6 billion funding shortfall.
The announcement of a planned start for prison construction means this policy is now ‘in progress’. To move to ‘done’, we will need evidence of the promised £1 billion investment, to see dilapidated prisons being closed, and further prisons built to boost overall capacity by at least 10,000. Follow this policy for updates.