Minister backs floating prison

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Indy Politics
Ann Widdecombe, the Prisons Minister, yesterday defended the arrival of Britain's first floating jail, which is due to be moored off the Dorset coast this morning, and predicted that local residents would eventually grow attached to it.

So far the citizens of Portland, where the floating prison will be based, have been anything but enthusiastic, and the local council has refused it planning permission. The Prison Service is appealing to the Department of the Environment next Thursday to over-ride the council.

Ms Widdecombe said yesterday: "I do understand why it is that people sometimes get concerned about having prisons permanently near them, though oddly enough when we then try to close down the prison, they always resist it.

"If we do manage to get that ship up and running, the population which has resisted it arriving will resist it when we say we don't need it any more."

HM Prison Weare, formerly the Resolution, has been shipped over from New York as an emergency measure to deal with the jail over-crowding crisis.

The Prison Service director general, Richard Tilt, said that if the appeal for the ship to be moored at Portland failed, the service had identified other potential sites where it could go, subject to planning approval. He declined to say where.

Speaking at the Prison Governors' Association annual meeting in Buxton, Derbyshire, Ms Widdecombe rejected suggestions that the spiralling jail population constituted a crisis.

The association said it was disappointed by Ms Widdecombe's speech. "We are deeply disturbed by her belief that a rising prison population is a factor in reducing crime rates. Hers is a simplistic and potentially damaging approach to the management of criminal justice," a PGA statement said.