Greater Manchester now ‘committed’ to new prison – and looking at possible sites
Greater Manchester leaders are committed to building a new ‘local’ prison and are now drawing up a shortlist of sites, according to the region’s interim mayor.
The government has asked town hall chiefs to identify suitable places for a new ‘resettlement prison’, a kind of open facility for low-risk offenders from the local area designed to rehabilitate them back into the community.
George Osborne announced plans for a series of such prisons several months ago and since then local authorities across the country have been asked by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to scope out locations.
Now, as Greater Manchester signs a deal to devolve criminal justice – so it can better line up the court, probation, police and prison system in a bid to cut offending – both the government and interim mayor Tony Lloyd say there will be a new prison built somewhere in the area.
Asked whether the region’s combined authority was ‘committed’ to the idea, Mr Lloyd said yes.
“We have got to identify what are good sites,” he said. “To me it’s a no-brainer because we know local prisons are better. If they maintain proper contact with partners and family, it’s more likely people come out of prison ready to go straight.
“We will work quickly to identify what’s the right site.”
There have been no indications so far of where the prison might go, but combined authority insiders said it could be on existing prison estate, privately owned land or a council-owned site – but since the latter are being prioritised by council leaders for housing, that is less likely.
Justice minister Andrew Selous said: “At the moment the ball is in the court of the Greater Manchester combined authority for the region to come up with some possible sites to present to the MoJ so we can have a look at them.
“We are looking at new prison capacity on a ‘new for old’ basis. We do want to close inefficient prison accommodation as part of providing these 10,000 new prison places in better conditions.”
However combined authority sources said a prison closure in the region was unlikely – as most facilities are relatively modern, while Strangeways is for category A prisoners rather than low-risk offenders and has recently had an expensive refurbishment.