Breaking news from the BBC website to be found here.
It seems the government has decided to abandon plans to build three "Titan" prisons, which were to have a capacity of over 2,500 places each, in favour of three slightly smaller institutions. This is something many of us have been hoping and praying for for a long time, and might evince a change in the government's policy on criminal justice as a whole.
Smaller institutions have been consistently more successful in reducing re-offending rates and although 1,500 inmates in any one prison is still not ideal, smaller prisons have a range of benefits over larger ones, which far outweigh the costs of running them. Smaller prisons can be built closer to urban centres and public transport links, which facilitates visitor access and ultimately leads to lower re-offending rates.
The criminal justice system has been severely damaged by Labour government. The readiness to hand out custodial sentances to satisfy public opinion has put pressure on an already overcrowded and under-funded prison system. Another ongoing problem is the detention of asylum seekers and other immigrants in so-called Immigration Removal Centres. Applicants are routinely detained, even whole families with young children, while their asylum application is "fast-trakced". In practice, this can take months and terrible conditions in these prisons, some of which are privately run, have caused more than a few to commit suicide while in detention. Poor access to legal advice means many detainees aren't able to apply for bail.
Anyway, in the meantime we welcome this about-turn by the government, and continue to pray for prisoners and their families wherever they might be.
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