Justice Minister Chris Grayling told officials from Lincolnshire that a decision on the future of Lincoln Prison is expected before Christmas.
Senior county officials met with the Justice Minister and his Prisons Minister Jeremy Wright at Westminster on Tuesday.
The delegation was lobbying against government plans to close down Lincoln Prison and turn it into an immigration centre.
Following the meeting, Councillor Martin Hill, Leader of Lincolnshire County Council, said:
“The minister gave us a good hearing, and we were able to explain our concerns, and those of local businesses and residents, regarding the proposed changes.
“We made sure we underlined the importance of the prison to driving down reoffending rates and delivering justice locally, as well as the significant contribution it makes to the county economy.
“This last point was further emphasized by persuasive presentations by the two local employers who joined us, representing our legal and construction businesses.”
The delegation also included Lincoln MP Karl McCartney, Tony McArdle from the County Council, Councillor Ric Metcalfe and John Latham from the City Council, Steve Gelder from Gelder Construction and Mark Neil from Sills & Betteridge solicitors.
Councillor Hill added: “We also stressed that, while the change might represent a saving to the prison service, it will certainly mean additional costs for everybody else.
“As well as highlighting the importance of the prison, we also pointed out that the facility is totally unsuitable for use as an immigration remand centre.”
“The minister has told us he expects to make a decision before Christmas, so we’ll be sending a letter reiterating the points we’ve made.
“Hopefully, the minister will take this fully on board and decide to leave the prison as it is.”
Keeping Lincoln Prison as it is
The Lincolnshire officials made the following points to the ministers:
- Currently 39% of prisoners in HMP Lincoln have Lincolnshire release addresses and we know holding prisoners near their local community helps with their rehabilitation – this is essential for reducing re-offending rates. Lincolnshire is the 4th largest county in England and it’s rural nature and poor transport links makes it even more important to have a prison within the county.
- By holding prisoners locally we can begin to build back up valuable relationships in their own community. Relationships not only with the various support services such as health and probation, but the all-important job opportunities in the community they will be returning to. It is important this process starts well before they are released to have a realistic chance of success.
- The closure of the prison could also have knock-on effects on other parts of the criminal justice system, particularly the crown court and businesses in the legal profession. This could have a knock-on effect of putting the whole the criminal justice system at risk in Lincolnshire.
- If the prison is changed to an immigration removal centre people would be brought in from elsewhere, most probably followed by their families. These families are likely to need a lot of support, much of which is not in place in Lincoln, as we currently do not have a large immigrant population. Many of the inmates will need language support – another service where the expertise is not available. This will put further pressure on local services.
- While the change might represent a saving to the prison service, it will certainly mean additional costs for everybody else.
- The prison employs hundreds of people and spends more than £11m in the local economy each year. The loss of the prison will have an impact on the wider local economy.
- Over the last 3 years the prison has spent £26.5m on capital works to improve the infrastructure as a prison with a further £770.000 planned.