POLITICIANS say no decision has been taken as to how the proposed Wrexham prison will be run.
Fears have been raised, after a “near riot” at privately-managed Oakwood Prison near Wolverhampton earlier this month, that the new Wrexham prison, set to be operational by 2017, would also be privately run.
Speaking at an event yesterday for businesses to meet the potential contractors for the £250 million prison, prisons minister Jeremy Wright said no decision had been made on how the prison would be operated and stressed the current focus was on awarding the contract for construction on the site of the former Firestone factory.
Mr Wright said it was “wrong” to characterise all private-sector prisons in the same way.
He added: “There are some very good examples of very well run private-sector prisons and you don’t have to go very far to find them. If you look, for example, at Parc prison in South Wales, that is a very high-performing prison.”
Mr Wright also said it was “far too early” to say how many of the jobs during the construction would be given to firms from the Wrexham area.
He added: “This new prison will be a huge boost for the regional economy, with the creation of up to 1,000 jobs and an estimated £23m per year for the area.”
Cllr Neil Rogers, leader of Wrexham Council, said he would prefer the prison to be run publically but added he had no say in the matter.
Welsh secretary David Jones hit back at criticism the prison proposal has received.
He said: “It’s all very well for some PHD student from Cardiff to criticise this proposal but I actually live in North Wales and I understand the dynamics of North Wales and I can tell you North Wales people, particularly the North Wales local authorities, are welcoming this with open arms.
“It is a large prison. It has to be a large prison because it has got to serve a large area but what is extremely important is, of course, it is in North Wales, it will be serving the people of North Wales and I find it really quite offensive when an organisation such as the Institute for Welsh Affairs actually runs down a proposal which will have such benefit for the people of Wrexham and this area.”
Mr Wright and Mr Jones, along with other delegates, visited the proposed location of the prison on the site of the former Firestone factory on Bridge Road before meeting companies and the potential contractors.