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Inspectors Say Closure of York's Askham Grange Prison "Baffling"


11:50am 6th January 2014
(Updated 5:07pm 6th January 2014)

Prison inspectors say plans to close HMP Askham Grange, the women's jail in York are "baffling".

The Independent Monitoring Board also call the proposals a "high risk strategy that could result in increased re-offending".

Although the government is proposing to shut the prisons to save money, prison inspectors are challenging that stating that it could actually cost taxpayers more to deal with re-offending by prisoners than keep the prison operating. Inspectors also say the prison's conferencing facilities are making a small profit while helping prisoners re-integrate with society.

The re-offending rate at Askham Grange is one of the lowest in the country at 6.7%.

However, inspectors did raise concerns over the prison chaplaincy but says most prisoners feel the prison does a good job at getting them ready for their release.

In conclusion, inspectors said:

"Askham Grange offers an excellent opportunity to women from closed conditions to re-establish themselves into the community. Many of its residents have served lengthy sentences and have become institutionalised and have to relearn how to take responsibility for themselves and their actions. Against the odds it has one of the lowest recidivism rates in the prison service, this success is not happenstance but is due to a dedicated staff team which focuses on all the issues surrounding resettlement including:

  • Education
  • Physical and mental health
  • Accommodation
  • Family life
  • Employment and training

It is difficult to believe that the ethos and facilities at Askham Grange can be simply lifted and re-sited elsewhere."

Minster FM has contacted the Ministry of Justice and  Prison Service spokesperson said:

“The closure of Askham Grange is in no way a reflection of the hard work and commitment of staff, nor of the prison's performance. The decision to close is not imminent and will only take place once new resettlement facilities are made available across the country. These will offer better options for the great majority of female offenders and will help to ensure they serve their sentence as close to home as possible."
“The IMB report into Askham Grange will be considered fully by Ministers once it has been submitted."
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