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Issue:- 17 January 2013

Building Britain's biggest prison will be a titanic waste of money

GOVERNMENT plans to build Britain's biggest prison are a titanic waste of money that will do nothing to cut crime, the Howard League for Penal Reform said.   In a move which echoes the ill-fated Titan jail proposal of the last decade, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has announced that it is to start feasibility work on a new prison that could hold more than 2,000 prisoners.  The project, combined with the planned construction of 4 new mini-prisons, follows the opening of the G4S-run Oakwood Prison near Wolverhampton, which has been dogged with problems from the outset.  Although the Howard League cautiously welcomes the MoJ's decision to close 6 older jails, the construction of new facilities means that the total number of places in the prison estate is to rise at a time when the government should be striving to save money by reducing the number of people in custody. The prison population is actually falling, so it makes little sense to start work on a huge jail at a time when public money is scarce. Rather than building extra capaCity in the prison estate, the government should instead focus on ensuring the decline in prisoner numbers continues.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said:- "For a government who claims its top priority is to get the public finances in order, the decision to spend hundreds of millions on a titanic prison is bizarre. Time and again, our prisons have proven a colossal waste of public money, with 58% of those on short-term sentences going on to commit more crime within 12 months of release.  The truth is that the government knows that there are far too many people in prison who shouldn't be there, with the prison population having doubled since 1990. In particular, far more people who have committed non-violent crimes have been put on pointless sentences of 6 months or less. These people should receive community sentences, which are approximately 10 times cheaper and are far more successful in turning people away from crime.  But 2 years ahead of a general election campaign, the Justice Secretary is giving his desire to 'sound tough' a higher priority than giving taxpayers value for money or protecting public safety."

The Howard League welcomes the decision to end the use of Serco-run Ashfield Prison as a children's prison. An inspection report, published last year, found that restraint had been used at the prison 150 times a month; a 9 old increase compared to the previous inspection.  Frances Crook said:- "Long before it opened, the Howard League made it clear to the government that handing over children to a prison run by a private security firm was a recipe for disaster and have highlighted its failings ever since. With its closure as a children's prison, we feel tragically vindicated.  Ashfield has seen appalling levels of violence, with 1,039 assaults recorded last year, as well as excessive use of restraint, strip-searching, solitary confinement and the addition of extra days to children's sentences.  Ashfield is a case study in what happens when you prioritise shareholder profit over public safety and the welfare of vulnerable children."

Chinese Year is nearly here!

WHAT are you doing for Chinese Year, that beginning on 4 February 2013? This year it will be the:- 'Year of the Snake.'

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Cities minister views City Deal progress

CITIES minister Greg Clark has visited Liverpool to discuss progress on the City Deal with Mayor Joe Anderson.  Liverpool became the first City to agree new powers with Government in February 2012, aimed at giving it what it needs to attract private investment, close skills gaps and create new jobs.

The deal included a £75 million Mayoral Investment Fund which is acting as a catalyst for infrastructure projects and supporting further expansion of Liverpool's already vibrant visitor economy, as well as promoting new ways of supporting local business which will benefit the wider City region creating 2,700 jobs across Liverpool and 4,200 across the City region.

During his visit, the Minister visited the site of Notre Dame Catholic College in Everton, one of 12 schools being built as part of the Mayor's School Investment programme. It will open in September 2013.   He also heard about the UK International Festival for Business 2014, funded through the City Deal. Billed as the global gathering of the world's most inspiring businesses, it will take place in Liverpool and Wirral in June and July next year. The festival will be a global showcase of business, where the City region will play host to hundreds of world-class events attracting more than 250,000 visitors from across the globe.

Mayor Joe Anderson said:- "I was delighted to be able to discuss with the Minister the progress that we have made since we agreed the City Deal last year.  There is a renewed confidence in Liverpool, illustrated by the UK International Festival of Business 2014, the new Exhibition Hall planned for ACC Liverpool and the success we are having attracting cruise liners to the City.  We are already moving forward with delivering my pledges around skills, with work underway on the new Notre Dame Catholic College in Everton, as well as improving housing in areas from Anfield to Norris Green and creating hundreds of jobs and apprenticeships."

Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Cities Minister, Greg Clark, said:- "It was great to be back in Liverpool to see for myself how the City Deal is progressing under Mayor Anderson.  Liverpool is taking great strides in becoming a globally competitive City. And with the £75 million Mayoral Development Fund, the Enterprise Zones and next year's International Business Festival, it's exciting to see the foundations being laid for future success."

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