Following the General Election I tabled a series of questions to the Ministry of Justice on their proposals to build a prison on land in the Baglan Industrial Park, these included the criteria for choosing the land, the process for determining the category of prisoner, and whether the prison would be run by a public or private operator.
You can read the questions and the responses I received below.
To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, which criteria were used by his Department to identify land on which to build the proposed prison in Port Talbot.
The site-specific criteria used to select potential sites for a proposed new prison are as follows:
- Sites of a minimum of around six flat hectares (around 15 acres) of developable area;
- No clear impediments to achieving planning permission for a prison;
- Ground conditions such that no abnormal costs expected during development (i.e. not marsh or flood plain and avoiding high probability flood zone);
- Possible to connect to utilities (water, sewage, gas, electricity) without unreasonable cost;
- Good access to public transport and motorways or trunk roads;
- Accessible for prison construction without major enhancement of existing transport infrastructure;
- No known major factors such as ecological or historic designations on the site or on adjoining land that could prejudice development;
- Any contamination is manageable;
- Suitable shape for development;
- Previously developed or brownfield site; and
- No significant Public Right of Way, third party rights of access or covenants.
We evaluated over 20 sites in South Wales. We prioritised publicly owned land as we estimated this would provide better value for money for the taxpayer, due to the economic and strategic benefit of doing this rather than going to the market. A strategic preference for sites located along the M4 motorway corridor, for accessibility, and travel time benefits were also identified. This led to 11 publicly owned sites being considered further, with Port Talbot being selected as the best potential site for a new prison build, taking into account the criteria listed above.
To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, how his Department determines whether (a) an existing or (b) a new prison is run by a (i) public or (ii) private operator.
No decision has been made on whether to compete the new prisons and there are currently no plans to compete existing prisons. A number of factors are considered in determining whether to compete the operation of prisons. These include the outcomes we want to achieve and what is best value for money for the taxpayer.
To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what the process is for (a) determining the category of prisoners to be held in a prison and (b) changing the category of prisoners to be incarcerated in (i) an existing and (ii) a planned prison.
All prisoners undergo a thorough individual risk assessment following conviction and sentencing and placed in a prison suitable to their risk. Assessed risks are risk of escape and of harm to the public in the event of escape/abscond and risk to the good order of the establishment and the safety of those within it.
The prison estate is organised in categories of risk ranging from category A for the highest risk offenders to category D for those posing the lowest risk. Balanced alongside this is the need to separate specific cohorts of prisoners such as women and young people and deal with prisoners who are particularly difficult, or whose management requires particular expertise, such as very high risk or especially vulnerable prisoners.
The procedure for changing a prison’s security categorisation would be the same for new prisons as existing ones. This includes a comprehensive assessment of the physical security of a prison’s infrastructure, the necessary staffing levels to manage the desired population and the adequacy of ancillary and partner services, including health care, activities and education.