Bishop backs prisons earmarked for closure
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.