BUILDING a super-prison in Wrexham would spell “disaster”for the town.
That is the view of Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, who says it is “despicable” that Wrexham councillors are willing to allow their town to be the location for “Europe’s second largest prison”.
At an Institute of Welsh Affairs debate held at Glyndwr University last night, she said “crime will rise in the region” and “prisoners will end up dumped on the streets” following their sentences at the new Wrexham Industrial Estate jail, set to open in 2017.
“This is going to be a disaster for Wrexham,” said Mrs Crook. “The prison is far too large and will lead to rising crime levels, rioting, suicides and prisoners will end up dumped on the streets of the town, not knowing where they are.
“The prison will cost more in the region of £300 million, surely that could be better spent elsewhere in the region.”
The town’s MP, Ian Lucas, called on the prison not to be named after the town which could lead to Wrexham becoming “known only for its prison”.
Mr Lucas also raised concerns about the prison potentially being privately run and asked for assurances it would remain within the public sector.
He called on the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to provide further information on the way the prison would be run, the kind of prisoners to be housed there and training of staff at the facility.
He said: “Wrexham has been hit hard by austerity measures, so an investment like this is important. This will be the biggest prison in the UK and, quite possibly, in Europe.
“I do not want Wrexham to be known only for its prison. We should continue to stress our diverse economy, with its manufacturing, commercial and retail strength.
“We want to attract more private sector investment and promoting Wrexham's wide appeal is a big part of that.”
Mr Lucas added: “The prison is going to be built. We must accept that, plan for it and fight for extra resources.
“I’m not sure the people of Wrexham recognise the enormity of the prison. It will put a major strain on our health board and police.”
North Wales AM Aled Roberts, former leader of Wrexham Council, told the meeting: “I agree with Mr Lucas that the prison build will go ahead and therefore it must be managed correctly.”
He added it was a difficult situation as mutli-million pound investments were not forthcoming for the area.
“We are not simply going to be handed £250 million by government”, he said.