Unfortunately I didn't notice the news about further prison closures until I'd pressed the publish button yesterday. Apparently, according to Chris Grayling, prisons have to be 'economic' and that appears to be his sole rationale for closing yet more old Victorian gaols like HMYOI Reading, HMP/YOI Northallerton and HMP Dorchester.
The latter prison is a remand male 'local' but accommodates YP's as well. Of course closure of these facilities will do nothing to help with the Justice Minister's other aspiration of creating a network of 'resettlement' prisons, and finding alternative uses that respect the significant heritage aspects of each will not be an easy task.
In relation to this latter point, it's interesting to note that yet again the aspiration to close HMP Dartmoor has been frustrated, no doubt by the landlord in the form of the Duchy of Cornwall, who continues to play 'hardball'. It turns out that the lease has ten years to run before renewal and I suspect the Duchy would be entitled to insist on some considerable repairs being undertaken before accepting the keys back. It's always nice to see that there are some people or organisations that cannot be bullied by Chris Grayling. It must be very annoying for him.
HMP Blundeston must be felt to be 'uneconomic' for different reasons because it's not a Victorian gaol only having been built in 1963. I'm not familiar with this Cat C male prison, but it appears unusual in not having any ground floor cell accommodation and no lifts. Possibly it wasn't very well built, in addition to being poorly designed, but all four establishments will close by March next year.
In addition, it looks like the days are numbered for notorious HMYOI Feltham in West London which the MoJ intends to demolish and possibly replace with a facility that represents the flip side of the uneconomic coin - a much more 'economic' Titan prison possibly holding up to 2,400 inmates.
There remains a major problem of prison accommodation for London and the South East and Grayling would dearly love to try and close some or even all of the big and famous London gaols like HMP Pentonville, HMP Wormwood Scrubs or HMP Wandsworth, but this is impossible without some significant new build.
I notice that the Justice Minister is promising to have more prison places than the coalition government inherited in 2010 and he confirmed the decision to proceed with a super 'Titan' jail in Wrexham North Wales designed for over 2,000 inmates and billed as a 'job creation' exercise.