Closure of Holloway – a good thing or not?

Here is a letter from Baroness Jean Corston in response to a letter from Caroline Dinenage dated 25 November: a letter which portrayed the closure of Holloway as being about making life better for women in custody. Baroness Corston makes some very good points and I am minded of the Women’s Custodial Estate Review in October 2013 which said:

The review team considered the physical design of Holloway which has attracted some criticism. The findings of the team were that Holloway is in a key location to serve courts in London and the south east. Women held there spoke in positive terms about their closeness to families and the ability of their visitors to travel to the prison, which maximises their visits and supports their family ties. This was endorsed by the recent HMIP inspection of Holloway, which also found that women said that “the central location of the prison facilitated women’s contact with their family, friends and community”. Holloway has a very wide range of service provision including a variety of voluntary sector providers meeting specialist needs, and health investment of £7 million annually. Health providers and their partners are able to address the complex needs of some of the most vulnerable and high risk women in the prison estate. The recent inspection of Holloway agreed that “there was an impressive range of partner organisations involved in delivering the reducing reoffending pathways”. The review team observed work with women who have severe mental health problems, and the extensive work which is carried out both to manage and support them in custody, and arrange transfer to secure NHS provision where this is appropriate. As such the prison currently provides a range of specialist and high intensity provision, which is not available elsewhere in the system. Unless and until an equivalent level of service could be provided in a suitable location for women from London and the south east and serve the courts, Holloway must remain an integral part of the women’s estate.

I also seem to remember that when the Women’s Custodial Review was published, the intention to close HMP Downview and HMP Askham Grange was ‘defended’ because the women in those prisons had said that they preferred to have the opportunities that were afforded in the metropolitan areas, particularly in relation to employment opportunities, rather than be located in prisons closer to home. So what is the true story?

Of course we want less women in prisons, and ideally would like to see all of them close, but we must protect the level of service for women and the best way to do this is to take time to plan a closure strategy, consult with those agencies providing this important mix of services, and invest savings in women’s community services.

Finally, can we please see the impact assessment for this proposal!

Jackie Russell
Director of Women’s Breakout

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