The closure of Shrewsbury Prison was a bolt from the blue which, we now know, showed a contemptuous disregard for the staff who over the years gave such good and loyal service within its walls.
The prison’s Independent Monitoring Board has revealed that job candidates were arriving for interviews on the morning that the closure was announced.
And that announcement had a “severely detrimental effect on staff morale”.
Now that the fuller facts have emerged about the closure, we can see that staff and prisoners were treated in a shocking fashion. Shrewsbury Jail had served Shropshire for two centuries, and yet was shut down virtually overnight, all in the name of saving money.
It is a decision which has all the hallmarks of acting in haste and repenting at leisure.
There is a glimmer of relative cheer in the board’s report, as it praises the governor Gerry Hendry and the prison staff for ensuring the departure of the prisoners to other jails went smoothy.
In other words, having been dealt a lousy hand, those on the ground in Shropshire did a wonderful job, as they have done routinely under the difficult circumstances of overcrowding for which Shrewsbury jail was renowned, only to be rewarded by a kick in the teeth. Staff and prisoners were misled about the future.
Shrewsbury is lumbered now with what threatens to be another Flax Mill – a major, landmark building, for which finding a sustainable future is going to be a headache.
There is talk of turning it into a hotel. Conversion would be very expensive and a brand new major hotel is now in operation only a few hundred yards away, putting a question mark over the viability of the project.
Shutting Shrewsbury jail was done on the grounds of cost. But it is a hurried decision which has come at a cost to the staff and prisoners and, so far as Shrewsbury and Shropshire is concerned, is already looking a bad bargain.