Leeds Prison set to be at forefront of radical prison reforms

Armley Jail.
Armley Jail.
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ARMLEY jail could be at the forefront of a radical reforms to drag it into the 21st century.

The Prime Minister claims he is embarking on the biggest shake-up of the prison system since Victorian times in a bid to cut re-offending.

Renewing his vow to close inner-city jails as old as Armley prison, he said it was a national ‘disgrace’ that such old institutions were still in use.

Mr Cameron said he wants the new buildings to be designed without dark corners and blocked lines and sight that lead to bullying and violence.

He said: “It’s frankly a disgrace that for so long we have been cramming people in ageing, ineffective prisons, that are creaking, leaking and falling apart at the seams.

“These are the places that were barely fit for human habitation when they were built are are much, much worse today.

“They design in bullying, intimidation and violence.

“One staff member told the chief inspector of prisons last year, ‘I wouldn’t keep a dog in there’.

“I’m proud this Government has a £1.3bn to knock many of these prisons down and build nine prisons, including five during this Parliament.”

Plans are already under way to transform the country’s prison stock with the bulldozing of HM Prison Reading prison to make way for housing.

While a decision on the future of HMP Leeds is still several years away, the ageing building fits the criteria David Cameron has outlined as no longer being fit for his plan of reforming prisons.

His other plans include handing six prison governers powers over budgeting and services this spring, new league tables that list re-offending rate and educational attainment of inmates and a Teach First style programme to funnel the brightest graduates into working in the prison sector.

A Prison Service spokesperson said no decision was final on Leeds but they are assessing ageing prisons to create a more modern service.

He said: “We are closing down ageing and ineffective prisons and investing £1.3 billion in a modern prison estate, which provides better opportunities for rehabilitation and redemption. No decisions have been made about where new prisons will be built and which prisons may close.”