Two North East jails are to become “resettlement” prisons after the Justice Secretary unveiled a shake-up of the system.
Northumberland (formerly Acklington and Castington) and Durham prisons will join 68 others across England and Wales where the majority of offenders will be released from prisons in, or close to, the area in which they will live, Chris Grayling said.
Existing prisons up and down the country will function as resettlement prisons with a trial starting in the North West in the autumn.
The Justice Secretary plans to build a £250m super-prison in North Wales, while he announced a raft of prison closures covering some 2,600 inmate places in January.
Mr Grayling said: “Rehabilitation in the community must begin behind the prison walls and follow offenders out through the gates if we are to stand a chance of freeing them from a life of crime. Currently a local area could expect to receive offenders from dozens of prisons across the country. This is hopeless.
“It is little wonder we have such high reoffending rates when you have a prisoner leaving HMP Liverpool, given a travel permit to get them home to the south coast, and then expected to simply get on with it.
“This approach is a significant step forwards in our reforms to tackle reoffending and lays the groundwork for building a genuine nationwide network of ’through the gate’ supervision and support for all offenders.”
The Government wants every offender released from custody to receive statutory supervision and rehabilitation in the community.
The Offender Rehabilitation Bill currently before Parliament will extend statutory supervision to 50,000 short-sentenced offenders each year, who will serve their time in custody in a resettlement prison and come out to a tailored package of supervision.
Inmates serving longer sentences will be moved to a resettlement prison at least three months before the end of their time in custody.
The women’s estate is subject to a separate review announced by the Justice Secretary in January, which will report later in the summer.
But shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan MP said: “The idea of resettlement prisons is a good one – prisoners being integrated back into communities where they have family and friends, could lead to reduced re-offending and fewer victims of crime.
“However, this is another example of reality being very different from rhetoric. These plans amount to a substantial reorganisation of our prisons system, and it’s not clear how it will be funded. Nor is it clear what will happen in London where there is an estimated shortfall of 8,000 places.
“These plans beg more questions which Chris Grayling can’t answer. Prisoners from London are currently scattered all over the country, many miles from their family and friends, making this policy announcement meaningless for them.