Most of the the seven public-sector prisons to close under a £63m a year cost-saving drive announced by the Secretary State for Justice, Chris Grayling, are at the centre of English towns. The 2,600 “old and uneconomic places” will be removed by closing the following prisons:
- HMP Bullwood Hall – next to Rayleigh Essex
- HMP Camp Hill – near HMP Parkhurst on the Isle of Wight
- HMP Canterbury – next to St Augustine’s Abbey in the City Centre
- HMP Gloucester – near the docks in the City Centre
- HMP Kingston – near the historic docks in Portsmouth city centre
- HMP Shepton Mallet – in the town centre
- HMP Shrewsbury – next to the barracks over the river from the city centre
The decision is controversial partly because it implies that prisoners will be held in bigger prisons, further from their own communities. Juliet Lyon of the Prison Reform Trust was quoted in the Guardian and on the BBC as saying that small community prisons tended to be safer and better at reducing reoffending than huge, anonymous establishments.
Four of the prisons are listed buildings, which should mean that they are preserved and, hopefully, new uses found for them. According to the official listing, the outer gatehouse of HMP Gloucester (1826) was converted to the prison service museum in 1993. One wing, built at the same time, was the old Debtors’ Prison. The central cell block, entrance gatehouse and prison chapel was, originally the County Gaol, which was begun in 1774, is Grade II* listed, that is recognised as a particularly important building of more than special interest.
HMP Shepton Mallet is also Grade II* listed. Originally built 1610, new buildings by George Allen Underwood were added in 1818-1819, with further alterations made by Richard Carver. On the glamorous side for a prison, it features an “austere” classical facade of three bays, with segmental headed stone architraves with emphasised keystones. The rusticated ground floor has three further storeys above.
HMP Portsmouth, built of snecked blue Portland stone rubble, flint, red and blue brick and ashlar stone dressings, with slate roofs and stone chimney stacks, was built in 1887 by George Rake. HMP Shrewsbury was built in 1787-1793 by John Hiram Haycock, Thomas Telford,and John Howard. It is brick with some stonework and Welsh slate roofs with a high boundary wall with gate, surrounding the main block with canted wings each side, and another wing to rear.