Suffolk prison to be enlarged

HOLLESLEY Bay prison is poised for a major expansion to try and cope with the national problem of overcrowding in jails.The prison near Woodbridge, could be asked to take in 80 more category D prisoners in its open section – an increase of 33 per cent on its current capacity.

HOLLESLEY Bay prison is poised for a major expansion to try and cope with the national problem of overcrowding in jails.

The prison near Woodbridge, could be asked to take in 80 more category D prisoners in its open section – an increase of 33 per cent on its current capacity.

The site recently reopened a mothballed unit to cater for 64 prisoners and it has cells for 245 people in the open prison.

If extra inmates are sent to the Suffolk prison a new building would have to be erected quickly to accommodate them.

Extra money would come from the Home Office for the building and to employ more staff to look after the male prisoners. A decision is expected within two weeks on whether to select Hollesley for the expansion programme.

The move comes as the number of inmates in prisons in England and Wales rapidly approaches the system's 71,000 maximum following an extra 6,000 people being sent to jail in the last 12 months.

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If custody rates and sentence lengths had remained at the 2000 levels the population in 2007 would have been 69,500. But the increase has been so high and quick that figure has already been overtaken.

The recent decision to reopen one unit and the possibility of bringing in the extra convicts safeguards the sprawling prison's future. Recently there was an increase in community based sentencing and the number of adult prisoners at Hollesley fell so much that two units were under-utilised and one unit was temporarily closed.

This meant there were not enough inmates to run the farm, the largest in the prison service. But now Stuart Robinson, governor, has said the main problem of having a sudden influx of prisoners is to find enough work to occupy them.

''The only problem that more inmates will give us is proving sufficient work places and how much it costs to deliver these placements," he said.

''There has been a huge increase in the numbers of people being sentenced to imprisonment or on Detention Training Orders and additional places are being sought urgently. They are looking at sites where there is space and the ability to build quickly.''

The farm nursery could be reopened, internal courses expanded, and the vegetable packing shed activities increased to provide work to help to prepare the prisoners for their release into the community.

Mr Robinson said there was land available at Hollesley for expansion and the Prison Service had discussed with Suffolk Coastal District Council the possibility of putting up a new building.

The expansion project was briefly outlined at a parish council meeting in Hollesley recently and clerk Lucy Butler said councillors and residents did not raise concerns about the proposals.

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