Downview womens' prison to get sex change under Government money saving plans
A prison is getting a sex change as part of Government plans announced today.
Prisons in Reading, Northallerton, Dorchester and Blundeston are being closed with Downview among several that are changing as prisoners are redistributed.
The Government says the plan will save the taxpayer more than £500m in prison costs.
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling, also MP for Epsom and Ewell, said: "This is the latest part of our plan to modernise our prisons, bring down costs, but to make sure that by the next election we still have access to more prison places than we inherited in 2010.
"Of course the reorganisation of our prison estate which we are undertaking means some difficult decisions – but we have to make sure that we have modern, affordable prisons that give the best opportunity for us to work with offenders to stop them committing more crimes when they leave."
Female prisoners will be moved from Downview to other suitable prisons by the end of the year and work to convert the facility will start immediately.
The Ministry of Justice said it will carry out an assessment to find out what staffing level will be needed at the prison in futures and “everything will be done” to avoid compulsory redundancies.
Prisons Minister Jeremy Wright said: "This decision was not taken lightly and is in no way a reflection of the hard work and commitment of staff, nor of the prison’s performance.
"However, we cannot shy away from the fact that funds are limited and we need to make sure we are meeting the needs of the prison population in the most efficient way so as to maximise value for the taxpayer.
"We will do all we can to offer support and ensure the prison continues to operate safely and securely in the run-up to the change in role."
Reigate MP and former Prisons Minister Crispin Blunt has sought assurances that changing HMP Downview from a women-only prison to a men’s facility will not disrupt sentence plans.
Mr Blunt has raised concerns prisoners who are taking part in rehabilitation and education could have their programmes disrupted by the plans, announced this week as part of a scheme to cut prison costs nationally.
He said prisoners’ rehabilitations programmes were disrupted or even stopped altogether when Downview was converted from being a men-only prison in 2001 and has pressed Justice Minister Chris Grayling for assurances this will not happen again.
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