Bishop backs prisons ear­marked for clo­sure

The Church of England - - NEWS - By Amaris Cole

THE BISHOP of Portsmouth has pledged sup­port for pris­on­ers and staff as the government an­nounced the clo­sure of two prisons in his dio­cese.

The Rt Rev Christo­pher Fos­ter said the clo­sure of Kingston Prison in Portsmouth and the Camp Hill Prison on the Isle of Wight on eco­nomic grounds left him feel­ing ‘un­com­fort­able’.

He promised clergy and wor­ship­pers would try to help.

Last week, the Min­istry of Jus­tice re­vealed seven ‘old and un­eco­nomic’ prisons would close, and an­other two would ‘par­tially close’ to save an es­ti­mated £63 mil­lion a year in run­ning costs.

This equates to 2,600 places, which will be par­tially off­set by a new ‘su­per prison’.

Re­ports sug­gest a fur­ther five prisons may also close next year.

Bishop Christo­pher said: “I ad­mit to feel­ing un­com­fort­able at clos­ing prisons purely on ‘ eco­nomic’ grounds. For me, the big­ger ques­tion is whether prisons are do­ing their job in terms of so­cial jus­tice.

“Are they able to re­ha­bil­i­tate pris­on­ers so that they are bet­ter ed­u­cated, un­der­stand the im­pact of their crimes and want to turn their lives around?

“If they are to be re­leased, are they less likely to re­of­fend? Are pris­on­ers treated fairly, and are prison staff re­spected?”

The Bishop added: “In the prisons in this dio­cese, we have a sys­tem of Angli­can chap­lains – who are em­ployed by the Home Of­fice but then li­censed by me – as well as chap­lains of other de­nom­i­na­tions and faiths, who lead wor­ship and of­fer spir­i­tual sup­port to pris­on­ers and staff.

“Then there are many Chris­tian vol­un­teers who give up their time to help lead chapel ser­vices, visit pris­on­ers or help with their re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion. I know the pris­on­ers, their fam­i­lies and the staff find this involvement enor­mously help­ful.”

He also spoke of con­cern for those los­ing their jobs in the area.

There are cur­rently 1,177 mem­bers of staff who work at the prisons ear­marked for clo­sure this year, who will be of­fered re-de­ploy­ment and vol­un­tary re­dun­dancy.

The prison pop­u­la­tion in Eng­land and Wales cur­rently stands at 83,632, yet the op­er­a­tional ca­pac­ity is 90,451.

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