A LEADING politician has refused to rule out the possibility of higher-risk prisoners being housed in Wrexham’s 2,100 inmate ‘super-prison’.
Prisons Minister Jeremy Wright said the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) needed to be ‘flexible’ on which category of prisoners would be kept in the prison, which is now expected to cost about £212 million.
The MoJ has previously refused to be drawn on whether Category B inmates would be sent to the ‘super-prison’.
Leader of Wrexham Council, Neil Rogers, said he was unconcerned about the prospect of Category B prisoners being housed in Wrexham, preferring to focus on the £23 million economic boost the town is expected to gain annually, once the jail is in operation.
Speaking to the Leader, Mr Wright said: “We’ve got to be flexible regarding categories. In the long term, housing some Category B prisoners in Wrexham is an option and we can’t rule that out.
“At the moment we don’t have plans to be accomodating Category B inmates for when the prison opens in 2017. What is clear is that whether there are Category B or C inmates in the jail, they will be securely housed and will not be wandering the streets of Wrexham.”
Mr Wright said he disagreed with last week’s statement from the Prison Reform Trust, who said an increase in more than 500 UK prisoners in the two weeks between May 9 and May 23 was putting the jail service under ‘unprecedented strain’.
“Our inmate numbers vary on a weekly basis,” he said.
“One week we may have hundreds of new prisoners, the next week there will be less, so I don’t think those stats are fair.
“One of the key aims for the Wrexham jail is enhanced rehabilitation – every effort will be made to rehabilitate inmates in the months before their release, in order to allow them to fall back into their communities.”
Cllr Rogers said: “Whether the offenders are Category B or C, we are not concerned.
The main message here is this is good news for Wrexham. No other investment can currently offer us a £23 million annual economic boost, and the pledge to create 100 apprenticeships is welcomed.
“Over 1,000 jobs will be created, and further sustainable work when it is running.
Workers will need to live near Wrexham, they will send their kids to school here, it will be a real boost for the housing market.”
In addition to the economic gains of the prison project, Rossett councillor Hugh Jones highlighted the community aspect of the contract.
He said: “Each worker employed by Lend Lease for the building project will be contracted to spend one day per year volunteering in the local community. It is crucial to stress this contract has been awarded not just based on price, but on community involvement.
“We have visited Altcourse, Dovegate, Oakwood, and HMP Parc in Glamorgan. Parc is an outstanding, privately-run prison which houses Category B offenders and has 1,800 inmates, which shows a big prison can be successful.”
Welsh Government Secretary of State, David Jones MP, who was born in Wrexham, said: “I grew up in Rhos so I know how much of a boost this development will be for the area. The prison is going to have a big impact on the town.
“I can understand concerns of residents in Abenbury but it is a relatively small residential area that will be impacted. This is set to be a modern, high-standard of prison and we can reassure residents this will be a very professionally run jail.”