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Islington’s Pentonville prison could close under new plans

PUBLISHED: 07:00 23 July 2015

Pentonville in Caledonian Road, Holloway

Pentonville in Caledonian Road, Holloway

Archant

Justice Secretary hints at possible demolition for Pentonville

Pentonville Prison could face closure under new plans to replace ‘ageing and ineffective Victorian’ jails by Justice secretary Michael Gove.

The Category B jail, in Caledonian Road, Holloway, has been plagued with damning reports into its living conditions, hygiene standards and opportunities for inmate education and reform.

In a speech given at the Prisoner’s Learning Alliance last week, Mr Gove cited the problems at HMP Pentonville as “the most dramatic example of failure within the prison estate,” before unveiling his ‘new for old’ policy which could see the prison sold to developers and demolished in favour of another building.

Mr Gove said: “The money which could be raised from selling off inner city sites for development would be significant. It could be re-invested in a modern prison estate where prisoners do not have to share overcrowded accommodation but also where the dark corners that facilitate bullying, drug-taking and violence could increasingly be designed out.”

In a June report by the Chief Inspector of Prisons, the prison, opened in 1842, was found to have “filthy” prison cells with “accumulated waste”, and blood stains on the walls, in addition to mass overcrowding.

At the time of the report, HMP Pentonville, which is supposed to hold 900 inmates, had 1,300 – which the report claimed was contributing to a high number of violent incidents between prisoners and widespread illegal drug use. A week later, the Gazette revealed cockroaches “the size of mice” had allegedly been found contained within the cells.

Recently, the Valuation Office put the price of a hectare of land in Islington at £52m, making HMP Pentonville, with its close proximity to King’s Cross, an attractive prospect for developers.

But Emily Thornbery, MP for Islington South and Finsbury raised concerns this week.

She said it was unnacceptable for Mr Gove to sell off Pentonville Prison at a high price to make room for luxury flats.

She said: “The possible closure of Pentonville Prison leads to all kinds of questions, namely: what are they going to replace it with? And where will another local prison for the people of Islington be built? We will not accept Pentonville being flogged off making huge profits and being turned into yet more luxury flats. There are currently 19,000 people on the housing list and 42 per cent of Islington residents are in social housing. If Pentonville is sold it needs to deal with the needs of local people.”

Ms Thornberry also objected to the prospect of inmates being moved away from their families and the consequences this might have for their rehabilitation.

She said: “Londoners need a local prison, This is about treating people decently and this includes inmates being able to have their families visit them, as this has strong links to their rehabilitation.”

Emily Thornberry, MP for Islington South and Finsbury warned that it would be unacceptable for Mr Gove to sell off Pentonville prison at a high price to make room for luxury flats.

She said: “The possible closure of Pentonville Prison leads to all kinds of questions, namely: what are they going to replace it with? And where will another local prison for the people of Islington be built?”

“We will not accept Pentonville being flogged off making huge profits and being turned into yet more luxury flats. There are currently 19,000 people on the housing list and 42 per cent of Islington residents are in social housing. If Pentonville is sold it needs to deal with the needs of local people.”

Ms Thornberry also objected to the prospect of inmates being moved away from their families and the consequences this might have for their rehabilitation.

She said: “Londoners need a local prison, This is about treating people decently and this includes inmates being able to have their families visit them, as this has strong links to their rehabilitation.”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice said: “No decisions have been made about future prison closures beyond those which have already been announced.”

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