We need to stop unwanted prisons being foisted on Wales

Picture by Kazan Vperemen (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Leanne Wood AM, Leader of Plaid Cymru

This week I called on the Labour First Minister to refuse to sell Welsh Government land at Port Talbot for the development of another super-prison.

He answered that “no decision has yet been made”.

This is typical complacency we are used to, but it also shows that this unwanted prison can actually be stopped. It isn’t too late, and with at least 9,000 people objecting locally, we can keep building the case.

We’re used to unwanted developments being foisted on Wales, while being denied sustainable and useful investment.

But the Welsh Government, if it listens to campaigners and the opposition, can stop this happening. Imagine the confident message that would send to people in Wales?

The Labour Government owns a parcel of land at Baglan industrial estate which should be used for sustainable economic development. It is earmarked as being on the route of a potential Swansea Bay region Metro.

No other country that I’m aware of sees prisons as a tool for economic development, instead of a means of administering criminal justice.

The development of the HMP Berwyn super-prison should serve as a cautionary tale when it comes to the injustice of transactions between Westminster and Wales.

They give us a portion of England’s prisoners and, in return, we endure extra pressures on our already stretched local services such as the police and the NHS.

That’s why Plaid Cymru opposes the Port Talbot plan and calls for a Welsh criminal justice system based on our country’s needs.

Control

One point I put to the First Minister is that leaving probation services in Westminster’s hands has not worked. Probation is run on an ‘England and Wales’ basis, and has been partly privatised since 2014.

I and Liz Saville-Roberts MP have voiced the concerns of the family of Conner Marshall of Barry, who was failed by the probation system.

This is a system in which I used to work, but which has been modified and worsened with the introduction of profit-making companies. Staff numbers have been cut by 30%, and re-offending rates are up.

In Welsh hands, we could restore public oversight and public control. Carwyn Jones expressed support for this, but I have been in meetings to decide Wales’ devolved powers where his Labour party representative put his hand in the air to stop justice being devolved.

I again raised Conner’s case with the First Minister and am seeking to build support for an inquiry.

Turning to how we get these powers returned to Wales, a ‘justice commission’ now exists, run by the Welsh Government to build the case for devolved criminal justice.

It will report back in 2019, but quick decisions need to be made to transition to a Welsh justice system as soon as possible.

Justice

Plaid Cymru will promote and develop our own criminal justice policy for Wales.

This will be based on resourcing and training publicly accountable staff, protecting the public and the environment, enabling access to Legal Aid and support, rehabilitation and reduction of offending, and maintaining facilities which meet the needs of Wales, not the needs of other countries.

Above all, we should enforce and uphold the distinct body of Welsh law in a manner that reflects the principles agreed by citizens of Wales.

I am confident that such principles will not include profit-seeking, cost-cutting, and stripping services away from communities.

We must keep criminal justice high on the political agenda as we look to build the Welsh nation.

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21 Comments

  1. The heading introduces the issue of a prison being built but the text is about a justice system.

    • Red Dragon Jim

      Prisons are a fundamental part of the justice system.

      I’m glad to see this report and that Leanne held the First Minister to account.

  2. “The Labour Government owns a parcel of land at Baglan” – surely this isn’t correct. Either the labour party owns it, in which case, they can decide to dispose of it as they wish, or it is government land, inwhich case it belongs to the people. The government is simply an administrative organ which represents the people.

  3. Cardiff, Swansea, and Parc prisons should close. Once the EnglandAndWales legal system is dissolved and we have a Welsh-only jurisdiction, then all Welsh prisoners should go to Berwyn HMP with English prisoners there moved back over the border.

  4. Benjiman L. Angwin

    The question should not be where prisons are built, nor whether our correctional system is presented via public or private means, but why prisons are built.

    Prisons make a society less liberal, and substantially increase the power of the State. I find the concept of a super-prison to be wrong.

    It is the responsibility of the State to create a Liberal society in which people are able to make the right choices of their own free will. Prisons represent failure, and lack of belief by the State that people will make the right choices if given a humane environment with equal opportunity.

    Perhaps a small prison or two is needed in every nation. But more than this is failure to look at the world from a Humanist and Liberal perspective, and unwillingless because of conformity and pessimism to create a society which promotes these values.

    • I wholeheartedly support what you say in your comment, and note that it’s not the usual infantile demand that the penal system is completely abolished that is a common argument amongst some wet behind the ears anarchist types. Realistically we need to consider that the protection of society, and also the protection of some individuals who are dangerous requires some kind of physical separation: some people are just born dangerous, and there is little or nothing that society can do except have safe places for them to be held. Sadly a magic wand cannot be waved and all is hence forward fine and dandy. Also, there are some people who do such terrible things that the only proper place for them is in a safe place where society is protected from them. Too little do those naive anarchist types question what someone has done when criticising the penal system, which tends to undermine their credibility hugely – even amongst many fellow anarchists.

      However, the current system in the UK, where a greater proportion are locked up in prisons than in any other country in Europe, including I believe, Turkey, which makes for sobering thinking. Why are we as a society still locking up people who to all intents and purposes are more sick than bad? This is not to absolve anyone from responsibility for their misdeeds, but surely there are better ways?

      Given that we shall need to consider that some kind of custodial system will be a requirement, as a society we need to ensure that the system is as humane as possible and offers genuine means of rehabilitation, and far from considering the general England and Wales model, we should be considering, at the very least, the system coming into play in Scotland, though I think a more radical approach, perhaps along the lines of what Norway is doing should be our ideal.

      As a a society I think that it’s only good and healthy that we should feel somewhat uneasy about the whole issue of who we choose to incarcerate and why, and constantly be on the lookout for better alternatives.

  5. Historically England dumped their criminals in a colony called Australia. Now they no longer own that island, they dump them on a colony nearer home. The argument for Welsh prisons was to help Welsh families ie. travel time and for those whose first language is Welsh. Statistics show that these super-prisons are built to solve the English problem
    not ours.

  6. Christmas island used to “benefit” from Australias illegal migrants, but gave up recently… perhaps Ynys Môn! (rownd y gongl o’r atomfa).
    Beggars can’t be chosers.

  7. If Plaid Cymru’s policy is genuinely to oppose the new South Wales prison, then Plaid Cymru are finally doing what it was founded to do – defend Wales’s interests. Da iawn, pawb.

    This is an opportunity for Plaid to take ownership of a REAL issue concerning Wales, and to marshall public opinion through a nationwide petition, demo’s, etc. They could also remind Carwyn Jones of the negative impact of HMP Berwyn on the essential services that Leanne mentions and the lost opportunity for job-creation for local people (I trust that she’s already done this).

    This better hadn’t just be posturing. If it’s real, and Carwyn relents, I suspect we’ll be in for a scrap with the Westminster Government.

    • Red Dragon Jim

      Seems genuine. Wood’s been doing stuff on it and there’s a petition by locals on the internet.

      Government makes the final call though. Welsh Government on the site, UK Government on the final go ahead.

      • So South Wales will get its new superprison whether it wants it or not. That’s disgraceful. This is the same lack of decision-making that saddles us with unwanted house building through the LDPs. And might I also mention Tryweryn?

        I hope Plaid Cymru win this one for South Wales.

  8. Unless the people of our country say no to the UK and stop co-operating with this imperialism this will continue to happen.
    Our people must have the self confidence in our own ability.

  9. Moving convicted or unconvicted prisoners across the border is a violation of their human rights. This practice must be stopped. Wales should have her own juristiction. Persons convicted in Wales should serve their sentences in Wales. Persons convicted in England in England.

  10. It isn’t such a long time ago that Hywel a Williams was “bitterly disappointed ” that a prison wasn’t going to be built in Caernarfon

  11. from what I have heard (and I do not know if it is correct or not) it apparently costs more to house a prisoner in England than one in Wales, if this is so why don’t we agree to take more English registered prisoners and keep them is our super prisons thereby making more money for entertaining our English cousins than for looking after our native brothers and sisters. The prisons have to go somewhere (and I know a few more in south wales would be nice as it would help them justify all their infrastructure improvements) but if we can wangle some sort of profit out of our dear English friends then why not give it a go and any other such silly ideas as many as we can before westminster realize they are paying us a lot more money than they used to.

    • Hywel williams was “bitterly disappointed” that a prison wasnt built near Caernarfon someone has commented. Well so am i. The aim was a small prison to be built in north west Wales for Welsh prisoners from the west. A small one there would have been ideal for first language Welsh speakers and cut down on long journeys to England. But until Wales stops being a colony of England, under the guise of “Britain” we will continually have to suffer this kind of thing.

    • There could be the worry that the families of, for example, the Bodmin Bomber, the Mousehole Monster and the Redruth Robber move to Wales to make it more convenient to visit their relative in prison, and once they are released, that could well be to their new home in Wales rather than wherever they were before their conviction.

  12. It seems to have taken some time, to get off the fence on this one, but better late than never I suppose and hopefully signalling a new style? There are issues that are hot potatoes that people talk about, but politically difficult to take a stand on, but we are looking for people who can take a stand on these things.

    The severnside and division of Wales is a big issue and hard to present politically, but one that we want our politcians to address as well.

  13. At a public meeting in Rhuthun, re-Berwyn Prison Wrecsam I questioned the govenor as to the 50 mile radius to be regarded as local. When I stated that it would be possible for all staff to come from over the border he answered cynically ” I don’t recognise borders “. Colonisation is well under way in this part of the world.
    It would be interesting to know how many staff have re located to the area after being employed at Berwyn prison.

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