Bishop regrets prison closures

PA
Kingston Prison, Portsmouth, is up for closure

The Bishop of Portsmouth has said he is "uncomfortable" with the closure of two prisons in his diocese.

The Right Reverend Christopher Foster has promised support for prisoners and staff at Kingston Prison in Portsmouth and Camp Hill Prison on the Isle of Wight.

The government announced this week that Kingston, Camp Hill and several other prisons across England would be closing on economic grounds.

The Ministry of Justice is planning to replace the facilities with a new "super prison" holding more than 2,000 prisoners.

It hopes the prison closures will save around £63million a year in running costs.

The two prisons in the Anglican diocese of Portsmouth that are due to close currently house a total of 800 prisoners. Unions claim up to 300 jobs could be lost.

Bishop Foster, who has visited the prisons in person, said: "I admit to feeling uncomfortable at closing prisons purely on 'economic' grounds.

"For me, the bigger question is whether prisons are doing their job in terms of social justice.

"Are they able to rehabilitate prisoners so that they are better educated, understand the impact of their crimes and want to turn their lives around?

"If they are to be released, are they less likely to re-offend? Are prisoners treated fairly, and are prison staff respected? Those are the kind of questions I would ask."

Anglican chaplains lead worship and offer spiritual support to prisoners and staff at Kingston and Camp Hill.

They are supported by Christians who make regular visits to prisoners.

Bishop Foster said they would be available to all those worried about the closures.

"It's always difficult when people lose their jobs. Although there will be some re-deployment and voluntary redundancy, there are bound to be some for whom that doesn't apply, and that is sad for them and their loved ones," he said.

What Others Are Reading
More News in Society