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Editor’s comment: Why the MOJ should back Islington Council’s call for affordable housing on the Holloway Prison site

PUBLISHED: 06:00 07 December 2017 | UPDATED: 17:18 07 December 2017

Protestors marching on Holloway Prison to demand the prison site is replaced by council housing and community facilities. Picture: KEN MEARS

Protestors marching on Holloway Prison to demand the prison site is replaced by council housing and community facilities. Picture: KEN MEARS

Archant

It’s good, though not dreadfully surprising, that Islington Council has won backing for its Holloway Prison plan.

Considering campaigners were demanding to have the site turned into housing pretty much immediately after it closed, any other result would have been odd – although I suspect there are several who would sooner have seen shared ownership struck from the definition of “genuinely affordable”.

What is imperative now is for the council to be prepared to defend that firmly when the developers begin circling.

They have their work cut out for them: the MOJ has already made plain though the brochure advertising the site that its main objective is profit.

This is short-sighted: unaffordable housing is a major cause of poverty and inequality, and it isn’t hard to see how both could be linked to crime, which is the reason the MOJ needs cash in the first place.

People may be drawn into crime to support themselves, or to escape desperate lives in which they feel worthless.

People in desperate circumstances, particularly young people with no support network, may even see a night in the cells as the lesser of two evils when faced with sleeping on the streets, and petty crime could be a path to more serious offending.

Inequality makes people feel that society doesn’t care about them, and some may feel there is less reason for them to care about society by following rules that appear to be set up to benefit other people.

Backing Islington’s call for genuinely affordable housing on the site might not be the quick cash injection the MOJ wants but it would be entirely consistent with helping bring down demand for prison places.

Fortunately, the ball is in Islington’s court.

The town hall now has a strong mandate on what it should do with the site: it must honour that.

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