Ministry scraps children's prison plan

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The Independent Online

Campaigners today welcomed a Government decision to scrap the construction of a new prison for children.

The Ministry of Justice said proposals to build a 360-bed juvenile centre at Glen Parva, near Leicester, will be binned.

Officials said the decision forms part of the £325 million the department will save as part of the Government's £6 billion efficiency drive.

A spokesman said an equivalent number of adult prison places will instead be created on existing prison sites.

The move reflects the falling number of young people in custody. There are 1,707 15 to 17-year-olds in custody, compared with 2,156 12 months ago.

Frances Crook, of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said violence and reoffending linked to Britain's youth prisons are a "national scandal".

She said: "Prison is no place for children and this was a mistaken plan that would have endangered children and the public.

"Sending children into large, violent prisons miles away from their home does not address offending behaviour and fails to make society safer, as the 75% reoffending rate demonstrates.

"Given the current financial climate and welcome decrease in the number of children being sent to prison, it is ludicrous that the new titan prison for children was ever suggested."

Penelope Gibbs of the Prison Reform Trust added: "The challenge is now to keep the child custody population down by reducing the overuse of remand and preventing the courts imprisoning so many under 18-year-olds for non-violent offences."

Prisons minister Crispin Blunt said: "Meeting the demands of the prison capacity programme more efficiently allows us to play our part in contributing savings to reduce the budget deficit.

"The number of juveniles in custody is falling so it makes financial sense for us to boost the adult prison capacity by increasing the number of prison places available on existing sites - an alternative that provides substantially better value for the taxpayer.

"This Government is committed to reforming the youth justice system to ensure reoffending rates are as low as possible while also dealing with serious offenders."