Parkhurst proposed for foreign inmates

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Parkhurst Prison, one of Britain's most notorious jails, should be used to hold foreign convicts, the Prisons Inspectorate says today.

The call by Sir David Ramsbotham, the outgoing chief inspector, comes as the jail population of England and Wales is stretched by 6,500 foreign national inmates. Sir David argues that the isolated jail on the Isle of Wight, built 163 years ago, should house such prisoners because they are "unlikely to be visited frequently and less likely to be affected by the geographical location".

The controversial proposal would mark an unlikely turn in the history of a jail that once held Britain's most dangerous inmates, including Peter Sutcliffe and the Kray twins.

In an inspection report published today, Sir David says: "There is no reason why Parkhurst should not be made into a foreign national centre, particularly for those who are unlikely to be visited." He says the strategy would enable more British prisoners to be housed in jails where they could be more easily visited by their relatives.

Foreign inmates already make up a quarter of prisoners at Parkhurst. During his inspection of the prison in November last year, Sir David spoke to staff on D Wing who said they were "particularly keen" to run a foreign national unit. He says: "They had written papers, bought translation software packages and pictorial dictionaries."

But Sir David says the work was not co-ordinated across the prison. Foreign national inmates should be given access to cheap calls abroad and foreign newspapers, he suggests.

The proposal to make Parkhurst a specialist centre was not well received by David Kennedy, the jail's governor. He said: "There would be a lot of problems in concentrating foreign nationals in one prison. I'm not in favour of concentrating any section of the prison population other than for security reasons."