Page last updated at 05:37 GMT, Friday, 15 August 2008 06:37 UK

Mixed reaction to jail proposals

CaernarfonWrexhamMerthyr TydfilCwmbran

People living in the four locations shortlisted for a new prison have given their reaction to the proposals.

The four sites, Merthyr Tydfil, Cwmbran, Caernarfon and Wrexham were recently announced as the shortlist for the location of a new jail.

There has been a mixed reaction from people living in the areas from complete opposition in Cwmbran to support in Caernarfon.

Opponents have until 31 October to make their feelings known.

Wherever it is built, the new prison will address an estimated shortfall of 1,300 prison places in Wales.

BBC Wales visited each of the places earmarked by the Ministry of Justice as a potential prison site to find out what local people and officials thought.

Cwmbran residents appeared to voice the most vociferous opposition and have already formed the Oppose the Prison Action Group. They have planned a demonstration outside the site on Saturday afternoon and even have a petition.

They say the site in Greenmeadow would be inappropriate for any prison because it is a built up residential area.

HMP Parc
We have even had some lovely hanging baskets made by the prisoners
Cllr Ella Dodd on the benefits of HMP Parc

However, this attitude seemed to be echoed at each of the other proposed sites.

In Caernarfon, locals were worried about the affect on tourism in the town. In Merthyr, there were concerns about the possibility of prisoners escaping in an area surrounded by schools. And in Wrexham, the community living close to the potential prison site said it was worried about their homes devaluing.

But in the village of Coity near Bridgend, where HMP Parc is located, local councillor Ella Dodd said communities should not worry about any potential prison.

In fact, she said HMP Parc, a private prison housing approximately 1126 inmates, had benefitted Coity.

"We were very worried at the time Parc was first announced, mostly because the thought of a prison in a quiet village like ours was quite frightening," she said.

"We were worried about what might happen when the prisoners were released or when their families came to visit.

"But it hasn't worried us at all. We have built up great contacts with the prison and they've helped us financially with items for the village including paying for new gates for Coity Castle.

"We have even had some lovely hanging baskets made by the prisoners.

The shortlisted locations in Cwmbran, Merthyr, Caernarfon and Wrexham
1 Cwmbran: Ex-Centrex site, used for police training; NOMS-owned 39 acres. Potential for jail for 1,500 inmates
2 Merthyr: Goatmill Rd, Whitelands; Council-owned, 29 acres next to housing estate. Potential for 900 inmates
3 Caernarfon: Old Dynamex/Ferodo factory site; privately-owned, 27 acres, some environmental issues. Potential for 600-900 inmates
4 Wrexham: Old Firestone factory site; Assembly government-owned, 108-acres empty since 1992 but newts need relocating. Potential for "titan" jail for 2,500 inmates
Source: Ministry of Justice

"Security is really good. When we go in, everyone is frisked.

"So I would tell people in Cwmbran and elsewhere not to worry."

The Ministry of Justice has said there is a need for a new jail after figures showed there was an overall shortage of prison places in north Wales of around 800, and in the south of 500.

The North Wales Criminal Justice Board has previously claimed a prison could create 1,000 jobs and bring 17m investment into the area.

Gwynedd council and Caernarfon MP Hywel Williams have also added support for the proposal adding weight to claims from solicitors and the families of prisoners in north Wales that the area needs a prison.

Mike Mullis, business manager of the North Wales Criminal Justice Board, said: "There is a need for a prison in north Wales because all our prisoners have to go to England and we believe it's vital to have a local prison to help reduce reoffending by working with prisoners in their own communities.

"It is also important to look at female prisoners and young offenders, both of whom have to travel outside north Wales and in the case of young offenders that can mean being housed more than 200 miles from their families.

"With all the prison places in England it is very difficult for first language Welsh speakers to get any education or training in their own language."

The final decision on which site will be used will be made when all the feedback has been considered, said the Ministry of Justice.

The proposed site will then be subject to planning permission.

Location shortlist for new jail
06 Aug 08 |  North West Wales
'Vigorous debate' call on prison
21 Feb 08 |  North West Wales
Prison's 17m economy boost claim
07 Nov 07 |  North West Wales

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