Star comment: Decision to shut Shrewsbury Dana prison was hasty

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.

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Comments for: "Star comment: Decision to shut Shrewsbury Dana prison was hasty"

bob dobbs

So while the closure was badly planned and executed (for want of a better term), it doesn't change the fact that the prison was one of the most over crowded and not fit for purpose and was haemorrhaging public money. It needed to close.

Tommy H

In reply to bob dobbs,

we had a certification for 340 prisoners, all the quotes about overcrowding fixed on the old certificate of 184 so no, we weren't over crowded.

As for the second part of your statement, not fit for purpose, we came top out of all the country for two bench mark testing for our performance and top of west midlands for our performance.

Please, if you want to say something, get your facts right

JA

It was only overcrowded in a 'technical' sense really, 19th century cells designed for one, shared by two in the 21st century, all signed off and approved by the minister of state. 'Overcrowding' is an accepted means of incarcerating prisoners. Without overcrowding prison costs would be phenomenally expensive. It that sense the Dana by being the most overcrowded was very cost effective.

It was not 'haemorrhaging' public money, it had had public money invested only last year, it was in good condition and capable of serving it's purpose for many years to come.

It was one of the top performing prisons in the country, it had a remarkable culture within it's walls where prisoners were treated with decency and respect whilst at the same time challenging there offending behaviour. It was perfectly in tune with the much quoted rehabilitation revolution.

The only reason for it to close was to fulfill ill considered ideological financially driven political machinations.

The way this government works reminds me of a quote from John Ruskin

'' There is hardly anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price only are this man's lawful prey''

The public sector appears to be this governments prey, don't believe me? just ask any teacher, nurse, policeman, fireman, ambulance driver,doctor prison officer etc, essential public servants (note the word servant) who are being decimated by this fiercely cynical government.

They cynically say they will introduce whole life tariffs for murders of policeman and prison officers at the same time creating conditions where those very murders are more likely due to reckless reduction of staffing numbers.

The Prison did not'need' to close at all, it's closure is a loss for the prison service and a loss for the town, it's closure is an unmitigated disgrace!

Gerry hendry

Sorry you are I'll advised and believe the leaked stories. Do the sums please 340 prisoners and 40 k per year when you have don that take away the causal budget of £7.6 million an see if you can make sense of where and what was hemorrhagic about it.

So people believe vey thing they are fed without checking facts !!

ex officer hmps

Bob you know nothing of the inside of Shrewsbury prison, the inside of the prison was well kept and had some single cell prisoners, the staff did an excellent job of keeping the regime in hand, like a well oiled clock. Newer prisons as shown on television lately are a complete disgrace to the service compared to shrewsbury .SO, Bob Dodds whoever you maybe, you know nothing about the wonderful prison we worked in, only the bad press that it got for overcrowding which was shown on the television. If you had worked there with the best team of officers there could have possibly been, then you would know how devastateded we were to lose the best performing prison there was.

Rainmaker

"Hasty" is becoming the trademark of the Conservative-led government. The closure of the Dana is emblematic of this. Hasty decisions leading to poorly thought through and frequently incomplete policies. All of which leaves the needlessly derided public servants at the sharp end at a loss to deliver fairness or consistency. Joined up government is fast receding leaving people to fall through the yawning gaps appearing in public services. Once upon a time, and not that long ago we our Civil Service was the pride of the world. Under this government we are rapidly being left with poor public services for poor people. When Britain wakes up to the destruction being wreaked by the ConDems it will, I am sure have plenty of time to repent at its leisure of the mistakes being made - let's just hope it's not too late.

Roger

Shrewsbury prison was too old and dilapidated to meet modern standards and not adaptable. It was right to close it.

What was wrong was not to replace it. The staff were a well respected organisation capable of carrying on their specialist role of dealing with sex crimes perpetrators and also of housing the local villains. The prison should have been replaced with a new prison sensibly located and built from new to continue and expand the success of the existing staff. From everything we read or see on the TV the numbers of sexually related criminals being convicted is on the rise so the specialised role of Shrewsbury Prison needs to expend but instead has been lost to the system which is an expensive mistake. Not just for the local economy but for the justice ministry.

This is what conservatives do. They save money in the short term by cutting but never consider the consequences of their actions. To them the priority is to privatise the prison system in buildings that the private sector can manage economically. That aim they will meet. The loss of expertise and the treatment of prisoners with their rehabilitation are secondary considerations. A future government will need to pick up the consequences. Just like our failing health service they will create the chaos in order that they can apply a private sector solution. The public safety is a secondary consideration to the main aim of privatisation. The County Council are following the same conservative policy privatise first and worry about the consequences later when it becomes someone else’s problem with no return path because the expertise required has gone and the future has been committed by long term contracts.

In all cases the public pick up the bill for bad governance.