Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill has released a statement in response to the Ministry of Justice’s revised prison provision for Dorset.
Martyn Underhill says: “I am deeply disappointed by this review. The Ministry of Justice have confirmed to us this week that they are not changing their position on local prison provision for Dorset.
“The reality is that, with very few exceptions, Dorset prisoners will be housed outside Dorset whether they are male or female, on remand or convicted.
“Both I and the people of Dorset, struggle to understand this. When I was elected, Dorset had a prison estate of four prisons – HMP’s Portland, Guys Marsh, Verne and Dorchester. With Dorchester now closed and The Verne designated for Immigration use, 14 months later, we now have two. Neither of these are allowed to house Dorset people in Dorset prisons. It is frankly ludicrous.
“A prison has to be close to a prisoner’s community to support family links and community engagement. This will join up the geography of the prison estate with community provision so that voluntary sector organisations can deliver care that reflects their local needs. As Police and Crime Commissioner, providing support to prisoners and tackling re-offending is a key part of my role. Both will be difficult to provide remotely. Prisoners will struggle to maintain contact with their families and the provision of local ‘through the gate’ services will be adversely affected.
“I am also disappointed by the confusion surrounding the prison provision debate in recent months. The Justice Minister confirmed to me in November that HMP Portland was to become a resettlement prison for Dorset. I then received another letter from the Minister in December stating that a mistake had been made and that a decision was still pending. Today we received that confirmation. Communication on this issue has been poor and confusing.
“I would like to thank the Right Hon Oliver Letwin plus MPs Richard Drax and Conor Burns for joining me in lobbying Government over this issue. I will continue to lobby government to reverse this decision. I urge the Government and the Lord Chancellor to look again at the prison provision of Dorset.”