Straw denies £300m hole in prisons budget

Jack Straw

Jack Straw

originally published: 24th April 2009

Jack Straw was accused last night of scrapping plans for a new generation of “Titan” super-jails because of a £300m “black hole” in the Government’s prisons budget.

As revealed by The Independent yesterday, the Secretary of State for Justice will confirm next week that he is abandoning moves to build three giant prisons holding up to 2,500 inmates each.

He will instead unveil plans for five smaller 1,500-bed jails, only two of which will be built immediately. Penal reform groups welcomed the U-turn and urged that the Government should go further and divert offenders from prison to community service.

Ministers denied claims that the £1.2bn flagship policy was being cut because of a squeeze on spending announced in Wednesday’s Budget. They said the retreat followed opposition in areas where the prisons were planned, and fears raised by reform groups about the effectiveness of warehouse-sized jails.

But the Conservatives highlighted the budgetary constraints faced by the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), which runs jails and the probation service.

The NOMS has been asked to find “efficiency savings” of £81m in 2008-09, £171m in the current financial year and another £85m in 2010-11 – a total of £327m over three years.

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