VICTORIAN jails in city centres will be sold off for housing as the Government plans on building nine new prisons across the country.
Chancellor George Osborne and Justice Secretary Michael Gove have today unveiled the proposal as part of a major new prison reform programme ahead of the Government’s Spending Review.
The Reading prison site will be the first one sold, and the future of HMP Leeds in the Armley area of the city now hangs in the balance.
The plan is set to allow over 3000 new homes to be built on former prison sites, with an aim of boosting house building in urban areas.
Chancellor George Osborne said: “This Spending Review is about reform as much as it is about making savings.
“One important step will be to modernise the prison estate. So many of our jails are relics from Victorian times on prime real estate in our inner cities.
“So we are going to reform the infrastructure of our prison system, building new institutions which are modern, suitable and rehabilitative. And we will close old, outdated prisons in city centres, and sell the sites to build thousands of much-needed new homes.
“This will save money, reform an outdated public service and create opportunity by boosting construction jobs and offering more people homes to buy.”
Five of the new prisons will be open before the end of this Parliament. The Government will also complete the new prison being built at Wrexham, and expand existing prisons in Stocken and Rye Hill.
The Chancellor and Justice Secretary Michael Gove made the announcement ahead of a visit to Brixton prison, a Victorian facility in South London.
Mr Gove said: “This investment will mean we can replace ageing and ineffective Victorian prisons with new facilities fit for the modern world.
“We will be able to design out the dark corners which too often facilitate violence and drug-taking.
“And we will be able to build a prison estate which allows prisoners to be rehabilitated, so they turn away from crime.
“It is only through better rehabilitation that we will reduce reoffending, cut crime and make our streets safer.”
Closing city centre prisons and building nine new ones is expected to save the Goverment £80m a year by reducing running costs.
HMP Leeds, commonly known as Armley Jail, was built in 1847 and is a Category B men’s prison.