'Ex-cons could be wandering streets'


Staff reporter (Leader Live)

LARGE numbers of just released prisoners could be left “on their own” on the streets if plans for a new prison go ahead.

That is the fear of Abenbury community councillor Ray Squires who said a visit to a prison in Staffordshire had strengthened his resolve to continue opposing plans for a 2,000-inmate prison in Wrexham.

Cllr Squires fears prisoners would be effectively left on the streets after being released from the prison. The councillor took part in a trip to HMP Dovegate in Uttoxeter to learn more about prison workings and its effect on nearby communities.

He said: “I’d never visited a prison before, but it strengthened my resolve.”

He said he had not been optimistic at the start of the trip, which had originally been planned for HMP Oakwood, in Wolverhampton but had to be changed because of riots.

Dovegate, which is run by private security company Serco Home Affairs, houses 860 male Category B prisoners.

Cllr Squires said he had been concerned by the rate at which former inmates re-offended.

“I was with the warden and asked him how many people went through the doors went on to re-offend – he told me it was 70 per cent.

“They re-offend because prison gives them a roof over their heads, food, warm lodgings and they can earn money to get what they want.”

Cllr Squires had also discussed the pressure placed on nearby towns when prisoners were released and predicted that due to its size, Wrexham would have to deal with more former prisoners.

“When prisoners are released, they are escorted to the station or the bus station and when they get to their home towns, they’re on their own again,” he said.

“We're not just talking about one or two coming out each day. With a prison of that size, Wrexham town centre could see about 50 ex-prisoners a day.”

He added that while walking around the prison, he and his wife had been jeered at by inmates.

“We weren’t allowed to go to the left or the right side of the prison. We were only allowed to where they wanted us to see.

“But when we walked past, they were swearing and yelling obscenities from the windows.

“The language that was coming from them was heinous.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “We remain in no doubt the prison will be a huge boost for the regional economy.

“It is set to create up to 1,000 jobs and boost the regional economy by about £23m per year, providing millions of pounds worth of construction opportunities and great possibilities for local businesses.

“The first prison in North Wales will also allow offenders to be held closer to home, which will allow better support for their rehabilitation and reintegration into their community on release.”

See full story in the Leader

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