Lincoln Prison could be closed and used to house illegal immigrants
Lincoln Prison could close and the building used to house illegal immigrants awaiting deportation.
The Echo can reveal a review of the Greetwell Road site is being undertaken by the Ministry of Justice.
A decision on its future is expected to be made within the next ten days.
If closed, around 500 jobs will be lost and 750 prisoners sent to various sites outside of the county – such as Hull, Nottingham and Peterborough.
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Lincolnshire County Council leader Martin Hill is writing a letter to minister Chris Grayling opposing the change.
He says he is willing to fight hard in a bid to prevent any possible closure.
"This is a very big issue," said Mr Hill.
"It is a massive issue for the whole criminal justice system as well as the prison service.
"My biggest concern is the effect it will have on the rehabilitation of our prisoners and their families.
"These people will be stuck in a cell, sometimes for a long time.
"If a prisoner has been transported a long distance from their family they will miss them more because they will see them less.
"Holding prisoners locally helps them maintain their links to the community – this is essential for reducing reoffending rates.
"Lincoln is a very important centre and there is a real need for a prison in the city.
"It would be a huge loss if the prison was to go.
"The effect on the prisoners' family members would be massive because of the added transport costs.
"I understand criminals are in prison for a reason and should be punished.
"But the families have not committed a crime and yet they are being greatly penalised."
Referring to the proposed new immigration centre, Mr Hill said: "There is absolutely no need for a second immigration centre in the county.
"Lincolnshire's immigrant population is small.
"This means people would be brought in from other parts of the country – most probably followed by their families.
"These families are likely to need a lot of support, putting further pressure on local services.
"So while the change might represent a saving to the prison service it will certainly mean additional costs for everybody else."
Lincoln Prison opened in 1872 after the jail was moved from Lincoln Castle – now home to the city's crown court.
But Mr Hill predicts the prison closing will lead to the same happening at the crown court.
"It certainly will not help," he continued.
"Obviously, the economic argument comes into play that with no remand prison, there is far less importance on Lincoln having a crown court.
"Lincolnshire County Council does not want to jeopardise the location of Lincoln Crown Court. Lincolnshire is an important, growing and historic county that should certainly have its own crown court."
Justice Secretary Mr Grayling could decide to downgrade the site from a category B to a category C prison, without a remand facility. This would see around 250 jobs lost.
Category B prisoners are those who don't require maximum security, but for whom escape needs to be made very difficult.
Category C prisoners are those who cannot be trusted in open conditions but who are unlikely to try to escape.
Mr Hill added: "As far as I can see, there is just no argument for the closure or downgrading of Lincoln Prison.
"It just doesn't stack up whatsoever.
"We are the county council and if there are tough decisions to be made then we will make them as we have done in the past but this doesn't make sense.
"It would be very regrettable if were to lose the prison and there would be great difficulty if were to have to have this immigration centre."
For the county council, today's news is clearly cause for concern.
But for other major organisations, it is not only worrying – it is also a total shock.
The City of Lincoln Council had no idea a possible change was on the horizon.
Chief executive Andrew Taylor said: "The City Council is both extremely concerned and disappointed that there has been no wider, direct public consultation on this matter. We have only heard today (Thursday, November 1) second-hand, about the proposals and are now awaiting further details.
"We will do all we can to ensure that the direct and indirect social and economic consequences of this decision are fully taken into account."
When approached by the Echo, Lincoln Prison's newly-appointed governor Peter Wright referred questions to the Ministry of Justice.
A prison service spokesperson at the Ministry of Justice told the Echo no final decision had been made,
"We are considering changes to the future role of HMP Lincoln. No decisions have been made and there are currently no plans to close the prison.
"We are committed to ensuring our estate meets the needs of the prison population and best suits the current capacity," he said.
"Any changes to the role of HMP Lincoln would also need to incorporate the ongoing requirement to deliver prisoners to and from the area's courts."
WHAT THE COUNTY'S MPs HAVE TO SAY...
Karl McCartney, MP for Lincoln, said: "I have had a number of discussions this week with both ministers and the Secretary of State.
"Currently, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ)is in the early stages of a limited restructuring process for the country's prisons and I have been reassured that no hard-and-fast decisions whatsoever have been made as yet, especially in relation to our prison in Lincoln.
"The department is considering a number of changes across the whole prison system, right across the country and if the Ministry of Justice do propose any changes to the role that Lincoln Prison currently provides, then they will consult with both me, and interested parties locally.
"I have already spoken to representatives at the county council and the new prison governor, Peter Wright, earlier this week and I will be meeting with the new governor personally when I am back in the constituency."
Gainsborough MP Edward Leigh said: "There must be a very full consideration of the effects on the area if HMP Lincoln is going to have its role as a Local Remand Prison changed. This is not merely a matter for the Prison Service, but one which requires consultation with all the local community so that the people in the surrounding areas can be sure their views are properly represented.
"I share the concerns expressed by Chief Constable Neil Rhodes and County Council Leader Martin Hill regarding a change of use, and especially Mr Hill's assurance that we would all like to support the new Governor to insure Lincoln is a model of cooperation and success."
Sleaford and North Hykeham MP Stephen Phillips added: "I have heard rumours about the closure of HMP Lincoln, but that is all they are – rumours. My colleague and neighbour Karl McCartney MP has been assured by the MoJ that any alterations in the status of HMP Lincoln will be the subject of proper public consultation. If any proposals are brought forward, I will of course consider them along with the views of my constituents as to how I should react."
JOIN THE CAMPAIGN TO SAVE LINCOLN PRISON
You can make your voice heard on the future of Lincoln Prison.
- Lincolnshire Council Council leader Martin Hill is writing a letter to the Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling opposing the change and you can contact Mr Grayling at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Jeremy Wright is the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Minister for Prisons and Rehabilitation and can be e-mailed at email@example.com
- Both men, as well all our MPs, can be contacted via post at the House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA.
- Lincoln MP Karl McCartney can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or called on 020 7219 7221.
- Sleaford and North Hykeham MP Stephen Phillips can be contacted via email@example.com or telephoned on 020 7219 7146 or 020 7219 6487.
- Edward Leigh, MP for Gainsborough, is available on 020 7219 6480 or via edward.leigh.mp@.uk
- But the Echo also wants to hear your views, too. You can comment on these stories at www.thisislincolnshire.co.uk, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org , call us on 01522 820000 or write to Lincolnshire Echo, Ground Floor, Witham Wharf, Brayford Wharf East, Lincoln, LN5 7EU.
If you’ve read this week’s Echo and feel moved to join the call for a full public consultation into the prison closure, you may want to sign our online petition at epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/41052