GLOUCESTER prison is to close the Ministry of Justice has announced.
This morning the Ministry of Justice confirmed it would shut by the end of the current financial year in March, raising questions over where the inmates will go, and what will happen to prison officers' jobs.
It is one of six smaller, older, and more expensive jails that are to shut under a major shake-up of the prison estate.
It came as the MoJ unveiled plans for what would be Britain's biggest prison which could hold more than 2,000 prisoners – around a quarter more than the largest current facility.
The new facility is likely to be in London, the North West or North Wales.
Four new mini-prisons – known as houseblocks - will also be built. The current intention is that these new places will be built at HMPs Parc in South Wales, Peterborough in Cambridgeshire, The Mount in Hertfordshire and Thameside in London. In total they will be able to hold up to 1,260 prisoners and they will replace older, more expensive prison capacity.
The Government says the cost of holding a prisoner in an older prison is often more than twice as expensive as keeping them in a new one.
Their modern design allows new prisons to operate in a significantly more efficient way, requiring less maintenance and general upkeep compared to older ones.
The new developments will allow the MoJ to close the six smaller prisons including Gloucester, and to close parts of three others.
The move is part of the Government's drive to build new capacity to replace older prisons and so bring down the cost of operating the prison system. It is expected to save £63 million a year.
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said: "We have to bring down the cost of our prison system, much of which is old and expensive. But I never want the Courts to be in a position where they cannot send a criminal to prison because there is no place available. So we have to move as fast as we can to replace the older parts of our prison system.
"That's why we are moving ahead with immediate plans for new prison capacity, as well as closing older and more expensive facilities.
"It's also why I am now moving ahead with planning for the next generation of new prisons."
A spokesman for the MoJ said: “We do everything we possibly can to avoid compulsory redundancies by redeploying staff and using the voluntary early departure scheme.”
On the prisoners currently held at Gloucester, she added: “They will be moved to other prisons as appropriate.”
Pointing to recent reports highlighting the difficulties in running a modern prison in the 250-year-old building, Tory MP for Gloucester Richard Graham said: “Change sooner or later was inevitable. This gives us clarity. We know where we are. We can now get on with considering how the site can be best used to provide jobs and benefit the regeneration of the city centre.
“I will work with the governor to try and make sure people working at HMP Gloucester get all the help they need for this difficult time in their lives.”
He would be seeking to meet with staff next week.