The ultimate prison visitor achieves her magic number
Spring Hill, set in 190 acres of rolling hills and farmland, cannot be said to suffer from overcrowding. In fact, it is one inmate short of full capacity, 210. A relatively pleasant venue for the Home Office Minister's 129th, and final call. Still, no one was quite sure yesterday why she should embark on such an odyssey in the first place. One prison official posited, sotto voce, a possible explanation: "Well you do get football nuts who wish to visit every league ground in the land."
That is not to say Ms Widdecombe was not made welcome. To mark her achievement, prison officials presented her with a commemorative cake stating "129 - Widdecombe whirlwind tour 1995-1997."
But the cake did nothing to sweeten the minister's hard-line views on crime and punishment. She said protests from governors and prison officers about a system at breaking point would not deter the Government from going ahead with the Crime Bill, expected to mean an increase in the prison population.
Asked if there would be a rethink about the use of custodial sentences, she said: "Certainly not. We shall be building more prisons instead. There will be a dozen more prisons needed to cope and we shall build them. There is a prison ship due to arrive, and we are also looking at a number of other options.
"The Prison Governors Association know very well that we haven't been idle. We have produced 8,000 more places, we are trying to find other sites. We have had setbacks, and obviously they are unwelcome. We have had problems with the former holiday camp, and we shall probably appeal on that."
Ms Widdecombe admitted that the lack of space may lead to more use of police cells, but added: "They are relatively expensive, and not a satisfactory solution. We do not want to use them on a long-term basis."
During the walkabout the minister listened to the views of inmates and staff. One prisoner complained about the food and said with a grin he would prefer steak and chips. Her aides, mindful of allegations - vigorously denied - that the Home Secretary's wife, Sandra, had said prisoners got "more than they deserved", would not be drawn. Ms Widdecombe was unfazed and simply promised: "I'll pass that on to Michael Howard."
- 1 Belgium fan Axelle Despiegelaere lands L'Oreal campaign after World Cup viral photo
- 2 Why I'm on the brink of burning my Israeli passport
- 4 Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
- 5 Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country
Scottish independence: Scots of Corby take matters into their own hands in mock referendum - and deliver overwhelming verdict
Protesters fight to save Arturo, the polar bear sweltering in baking hot zoo
Fry ‘criticises Operation Yewtree in dinner party rant’ calling for tougher laws to deter false sex abuse allegations
Supermoon 2014 in pictures: Moon appeared bigger and brighter at the weekend
Saharan remains may be evidence of first race war, 13,000 years ago
Sustained immigration has not harmed Britons' employment, say government advisers
War is war: Why I stand with Israel
Even when it brutalises one of its own teenage citizens, America is helpless against Israel
Socialist Worker called to apologise over ‘vile’ article saying Eton schoolboy Horatio Chapple's death is ‘reason to save the polar bears’
Emergency data law: David Cameron plots to bring back snoopers’ charter
NUT strike: David Cameron announces crackdown on strike action ahead of mass industrial action
competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading publisher in...
competitive: Progressive Recruitment: A leading marketing agency is currently ...
£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Software En...
£40000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Software Tea...