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Last Updated: Friday, 1 February 2008, 11:42 GMT
New prison opened in Merseyside
Prisoner
Thousands of prisoners have been released early due to overcrowding
A new prison built as part of a billion-pound government project has officially opened on Merseyside.

HMP Kennet was commissioned in 2006 and forms part of a plan to raise the number of prison places from the current 81,000 to 96,000 by 2014.

The prison, in the grounds of Ashworth high security hospital in Maghull, is the first in the scheme to be finished.

The jail began accepting inmates six months ago and is already at its capacity of 324 prisoners.

Thousands of prisoners have been released early because of jail overcrowding.

Between last June - when the early release scheme was launched - and the end of December, 16,197 offenders were freed up to 18 days before the end of their sentences.

'Super' prison

Kennet prison has been designed to help ease the overcrowding crisis, along with building programmes to increase accommodation at Lowdham Grange, Featherstone, Garth, Channings Wood, The Mount, Stocken, Whatton, Haverigg and Lindholme prisons.

Justice Minister Jack Straw has also announced plans for three "super" prisons which will hold up to 2,500 inmates each.

Kennet has been converted from former medical buildings at a cost of 19m.

The jail, near Liverpool, will operate separately from Ashworth, which is managed by Merseycare NHS Trust.

It is the first publicly-run jail to be opened in 10 years.

John Reid announced the 1.2bn prison building scheme at a visit to the Kennet building site last May when he was home secretary.

The early release scheme was launched a month later.

SEE ALSO
New prison planned for Merseyside
19 Jan 07 |  Merseyside

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