Creating a prisons debate

Robert Jones sets out his arguments over the Wrexham Prison

At an event being held at the Pierhead Building in Cardiff today, various arguments will be set out as an attempt to further the case being put forward to oppose the UK government’s plans for a ‘super’ prison in Wrexham.

The Wrexham Prison debate


Here, Rob Jones outlines his arguments against the Wrexham Prison, as previously published by the IWA. Rob will be speaking today at an event held by the Wales Governance Centre in Cardiff Bay. Next Month the IWA will hold its own event on the Wrexham prison, which will be held in Wrexham itself.

To start the event, I will be outlining the case that exists against the Wrexham ‘super’ prison in two separate parts. In the first instance, efforts will be made to try and draw on the need to reflect upon the existing critiques that were used against proposals for ‘titan’ prisons in England and Wales in 2007. This will include reference to the opposition expressed by the former Chief Inspector of Prisons, the Prison Governors Association, the Prison Officers Association, HM Chief Inspector of Probation, the then President of the Independent Monitoring Boards and other groups which included the Criminal Justice Alliance.

Importantly, attention will also be drawn to the level of political opposition that was directed towards ‘titan’ prison proposals. In doing so, the event will be used as a way to emphasise the need for similar levels of political opposition to the UK government’s latest plans. In particular, while arguing that the differences between ‘Titan’s’ in 2007 and ‘super’ prisons in 2013 are non-existent – the event will be used as a way to try and steer greater political interest and opposition to the UK government’s latest plans.

In the second part of the argument that I will be making today, the plans for a prison in Wrexham will be scrutinised in more detail. This scrutiny will include an assessment of what the prison not only means for England and Wales, but a number of questions will also be raised over just what the Wrexham ‘super’ prison means at the level of Wales. In particular, questions will be raised over the impact that the prison will have upon the Welsh government and devolved services in Wales.

This will follow on from concerns raised by Frances Crook, the Chief Executive of the Howard League, on Monday when reflecting upon the possibility that the Welsh Government may become “lumbered” with a prison in Wales that predominantly holds prisoners from England.

Alongside these concerns, questions will be raised over what impact the ‘super’ prison will have upon the areas of responsibility which are already devolved to the Welsh government. This will include the area of prisoner healthcare and prisoner education as well as the government’s responsibilities for housing former prisoners and within the area of substance misuse support. Beyond the Welsh government’s existing responsibilities, questions will also be raised over what the Wrexham ‘super’ prison may mean for the Welsh government’s future responsibilities. In particular, as we await the findings of the second part of the Silk Commission, where does the Wrexham ‘super’ prison fit in alongside the Welsh government’s “longer- term” vision for a devolved system of criminal justice in Wales?

The questions raised within this opening paper will be responded to by a panel of experts taking part in the event. This will include the views of Elfyn Llwyd MP; Eoin MacLennan Murray, President of the Prison Governors Association; and Andrew Neilson, Director of Campaigns at the Howard League.

In relying upon the views of such experts, it is hoped that this discussion can be used as a way to try and help generate the same level of political opposition to the plans as those for ‘titans’ attracted from 2007 onwards.

Robert Jones is a PHD researcher at the Wales Governance Centre, Cardiff University. His research is on prisons and justice.

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