Could Pentonville and Holloway prisons be closed?

HMP Holloway

HMP Holloway - Credit: Archant

Islington’s famous prisons could be bulldozed or turned into hotels or apartments if a controversial report is adopted.

Pentonville in Caledonian Road, Holloway

Pentonville in Caledonian Road, Holloway - Credit: Archant

The scheme to close HMPs Holloway and Pentonville, along with 28 other prisons across the country, and replace them with a dozen 2,500 capacity super-prisons, has been put forward by the Policy Exchange think tank.

The report claims £10billion could be knocked off the bill for prisons with Pentonville and Holloway together costing £62million a year to run. Holloway was described as “poorly designed and unsuitable for managing a large population of often vulnerable women prisoners”.

The proposal would clear the way for old prisons to be sold to property developers or turned into hotels.

Cllr Rupert Perry, who represents Caledonian Ward which covers HMP Pentonville, said: “I was saying this back in 2009, maybe before, but if you keep saying it maybe someone will do something.

“I am really pleased to see this report. It’s great news. I don’t necessarily think we need a hotel this far up, but definitely housing. They could build 500 homes, maybe more. It’s quite a big site and more housing means more people using the shops and all sorts of benefits for the Cally.

“It’s the same with Holloway, which seems to be full of girls who shouldn’t really be there.

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“Some of the historic buildings should be saved and converted, but I don’t think anyone would have any problem living in a former prison.

“Plenty of people live in former mental hospitals. I hope they can just get on with it,” he added.

The paper, penned by former prison governor Kevin Lockyer, asks why some prisons cost more to run than others and says “why do some prisoners serve their sentence in damp Victorian dungeons hundreds of miles from their homes?”

But Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: “It would be a gigantic mistake to pour taxpayers’ money down a super-sized, big brother prison building drain.”

HMP Pentonville, which holds 1,250 inmates, was built in 1842 and has seen Dr Crippen, Boy George and George Michael pass through its cells.

The prison came under fire last year when convicted murderer John Massey escaped by scaling the walls. A year earlier a report slammed the jail for rampant drug use among inmates and degrading, overcrowded conditions.

HMP Holloway, which has a capacity of 501, opened in 1852 and was the execution site of Ruth Ellis, the last woman in Britain to be hanged.