Dorchester Prison waste scandal will be discussed by MPs

Dorset Echo: SHUTTING: Dorchester Prison SHUTTING: Dorchester Prison

CONCERNS over the amount of taxpayers’ money wasted at Dorchester Prison have been taken to the top.

Members of the Prison Officers’ Association (POA) secured talks with MPs at Westminster Hall about the millions of pounds spent on the North Square jail ahead of its announced closure.

The doors of the prison will finally close tomorrow.

A total of £23m has been invested in the capital projects in the last 15 years, according to union official Mike Sear.

This included a new healthcare suite, gate complex including roof, windows and bars, a new gym, a refurbished chapel and reconditioned education block.

Dorchester is one of four prisons being closed in England to save money.

The Echo revealed in September that more than £7.3m has been wasted on refurbishing the prison in the last three years.

Mike Sear, of the Prison Officers’ Association, said: “My continuing concern is the waste of taxpayers’ money in closing the prison.

“Over the last 10 to 15 years about £23m has been invested in the establishment in capital projects.

“Far from being an old Victorian edifice the prison is essentially completely refurbished.

“We met various MPs, mainly from the Labour Party, to highlight our concerns over this and also about the increasing problem of overcrowding in the prison service which has been exacerbated by these closures.

“Sadly, no MPs from Dorset turned up and I doubt very much than anything will come of it but I’m glad we went.”

He added: “We needed to raise concerns and inform MPs about this situation.

“These closures are a misguided way of saving money and creating additional stress on the problem of overcrowding.”

He said that 90 per cent of staff at the prison had been allocated other jobs while 10 per cent, including Mr Sear, had taken voluntary redundancy.

West Dorset MP Oliver Letwin said: “I wasn’t able to be present – but I am continuing to discuss the issue with MOJ colleagues.”

Representatives from the other affected prisons, which include Reading, Blundeston and Northallerton, also attended the London meeting.

£23m spent in 15 years

UNION official Mike Sear, of the Prison Officers’ Association, said a total of £23m has been spent in the last 10 to 15 years in capital projects at the prison.

This included:

  • £2.3m healthcare suite
  • £10m new gate/ complex/roof/windows/bars

Other additions and refurbishments included: new gym, new visits complex, new reception, new generator, new boiler house, new kitchen, new staff mess, refurbished chapel, new office suite and a refurbished education block.

Furniture destroyed

A PRISON source told the Echo last month that thousands of pounds worth of equipment and furniture was being destroyed at Dorchester ahead of its closure tomorrow.

The Echo learnt that some items, from laptops in offices to furniture in cells, had been ‘smashed up’.

A prison source slammed authorities for the ‘complete waste of taxpayers’ money’ that could be used in the community or given to charity.

Speaking to the Echo this week, the source said: “More and more is going into the skips. The managers and other staff members really need to stand up and say something about it but they are scared of losing their jobs.”

The prison source said: “A lot of the equipment in the new building was made for Dorchester so cannot be used elsewhere – the public are being misled. Other prisons are fully furnished and can only take so much of this equipment and the cost involved in moving it means it is not worthwhile.”

Items include lockers, football, pool and table tennis tables, power tools, cabinets, office equipment, cell furniture and much more.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “Materials which are in a suitable condition will be passed on to other prisons for use.

“Resources which are deemed not fit for purpose will be disposed of.

“We need a fit for purpose, modern prison estate which provides affordable, modern prison accommodation and in the right places to deliver our ambition of reducing reoffending.

“In order to do this, we are currently replacing older prisons with newer, more efficient, accommodation at a much lower cost to the hard working taxpayer.”

The last of the prison inmates left on November 29.

Comments (1)

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9:07pm Mon 16 Dec 13

Stewarthunt@hotmail.co.uk says...

Throwing away football tables, pool tables, after spending millions on gyms and other facility's. sounds like your closing down a entertainment complex not a prison where punishment and justice was the main reason these people were there, disgraceful.
Throwing away football tables, pool tables, after spending millions on gyms and other facility's. sounds like your closing down a entertainment complex not a prison where punishment and justice was the main reason these people were there, disgraceful. Stewarthunt@hotmail.co.uk

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