Wales online: Welsh MPs announce investigation into prisons in Wales amid controversy over planned super-prison in Wrexham
The chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform has described the North Wales plans as a “Titanic mistake” but supporters claims jobs are on the way.
A CROSS-PARTY group of MPs are to stage a major investigation into prisons in Wales amid controversy over plans to build a 2,000-inmate facility in Wrexham.
The Welsh Affairs committee is appealing for people to send in submissions on prisons and the treatment of local offenders.
Supporters of the planned £250m super-prison in North Wales claim it will provide 760 jobs but the Howard League for Penal Reform has warned it would be a “Titanic mistake”.
There are four prisons across Wales but the nation has no facilities for female inmates or high-risk offenders. In addition, there are only limited facilities for young offenders and there are long-standing concerns about the Welsh language facilities.
Highlighting unanswered questions about the Wrexham prison due to be built on the site of the former Firestone factory, the committee stated: “The Government has not confirmed which type of prisoners will be held in the new prison in respect of age, gender or security level.”
The inquiry comes in the wake of the recommendations of the cross-party Silk Commission which called for the devolution to the Assembly of responsibility for the youth justice system; it also recommended an investigation into the devolution of prisons.
The MPs want written submissions on the plans for the Wrexham prison, “including the merits or otherwise of building large prisons”.
They also want views on the “provision of education and rehabilitation facilities for Welsh prisoners, particularly for young offenders, and Welsh language facilities”.
In addition, the MPs have asked for evidence on the “consistency of support for Welsh prisoners after their release depending on whether they were held in an English or Welsh prison” and views on the “devolution of aspects of the justice system including youth justice and prisons to Wales”.
They also want submissions on the “relative need for particular categories of prison places in Wales including high security, young offender and female places”.
Evidence can be submitted on the Welsh Affairs committee website and must be received by noon on Wednesday, July 12.
Earlier this year, Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League, said: “The proposed titan prison would also be terrible news for Wales… If the prison is built it will warehouse thousands of predominantly English prisoners and the Welsh government will be lumbered with an expensive prison for decades, with little or no room to pursue cheaper and more effective criminal justice policies.”
However, Iolo Madoc-Jones, a criminal justice expert at Glyndwr University, recently argued it was possible to be “cautiously supportive” about the project, stating: “Let’s be clear on things we can be clear about- there is no credible evidence at all that prison builds have any displacement effect on other business, has a negative impact on house prices after the building phase is over, leads to higher crime rates in places where there are prisons or, in the case of [category C] prisons, leads to significant numbers of prisoners settling in the area of the prison once they are released.”