Academic journal article British Journal of Community Justice

Be Careful What You Wish for? Exploring the Personal, Social and Economic Impact of New Prison Builds

Academic journal article British Journal of Community Justice

Be Careful What You Wish for? Exploring the Personal, Social and Economic Impact of New Prison Builds

Article excerpt

Introduction

In 2008 the announcement was made that to address the 1800 estimated shortfall of prison places in Wales, a new medium sized prison would be built there. Subsequently four sites have been identified for such a prison--two in South Wales and two in North Wales. Possibly anticipating and rehearsing the debates that are likely to follow in respect of other proposed prison builds in the UK, local opinion has been divided in terms of the perceived desirability of a prison within both South and North Wales. In general however there has been resistance in South Wales to the idea of a new prison being built there, but in North Wales there has been significant support. In North Wales for example the Local Criminal justice Board held a conference in November 2007 at which leaders from all the main criminal justice agencies in that area, along with local Judges, magistrates and politicians called for a prison facility to be built in North Wales. The conference was widely reported and in generally positive terms in the local media. In South Wales on the other hand it is reported that Torfaen council vigorously oppose a prison at Cwmbran and an "Oppose the Prison Action Group" has already been formed.

As is common in instances when policy makers support a prison build, arguments for a prison are predicated on the view that such a build would have a significant positive impact on prisoners from that area who would otherwise have to be housed further away. In addition to this, arguments for a prison are predicated on the perceived positive economic impact such a prison would have on the region (Shichor 1992). Arguments against a prison on the other hand are largely mobilised around the perceived detrimental economic impact it would have on the local economy; and on its perceived social consequences in terms of higher crime rates and social problems. This article seeks to stimulate and inform further debate on the issue, by considering firstly the literature about the potential impact of prison siting decisions on offenders and their families. What is known about the impact that being near or far to home has on a prisoners experience is explored. Secondly, the economic impact of a new prison build on an area is explored. What is known about its effects on local economies, businesses, and employment in an area is reviewed. Finally the social impact of a new prison build is explored. Considered are its effects on crime rates, perceptions of safety, house prices and quality of life. Where relevant, reference is made to what is know about any differential effect depending on whether the prison is a medium sized or titan prison.

Impact of Prison Siting Decisions on Offenders and their Families

In some areas, arguments for a prison may be predicated on the idea that a community needs a new or another prison because some or all prisoners from that area are currently located far from their homes, with negative consequences for them and their families. Such an argument is currently made in North Wales for example. Adult male prisoners from North Wales are currently accommodated at HMP Altcourse in Liverpool, whilst adult females are currently accommodated as Styal in Cheshire. In 2003, prisoners in the UK were held, on average, 53 miles away from their home (Hansard 2003). Evidence given to the Welsh Home Affairs Select committee indicates the average for adult male and female prisoners from North Wales on the other hand is 67 miles and 74 miles respectively (WHASC 2007). In such instances it is argued prisoners face discrimination because prisoners located closer to their home area may receive more visits and therefore be better able to maintain family, social and economic ties to the communities to which they will return. It is further argued that the nearer a prisoner is housed to their home area, the better that will be in terms of that prisoner's health and rehabilitation and ultimately, for an area's crime rate. …

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