Call for action after report highlights 'waste of taxpayers' money' during Dorchester prison closure (From Dorset Echo)
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Call for action after report highlights 'waste of taxpayers' money' during Dorchester prison closure
A PRISON source is calling for a public investigation after a report claims the closure of Dorchester prison led to a 'huge waste of taxpayers' money'.
An Echo investigation in November exclusively revealed that thousands of pounds of equipment and furniture was being destroyed at the North Square Jail.
The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) produced its report covering HMP Dorchester's final year in operation.
It states that the closure did lead to a 'huge waste of taxpayers' money'.
The county town jail shut its doors for the final time in December last year after it was one of four prisons earmarked for closure by the government.
The prison insider told the Echo about his 'disgust' at the waste of equipment and furniture, which could have been donated to the community or charity.
The report raised issues with elements of the closure process itself, stating that although it was 'carried out with speed and efficiency' there were a number of concerns.
It stated: “There was undoubtedly a great deal of waste.
“Many furnishings and equipment, deemed not to be capable of use at other prisons, were placed in skips for disposal.
“The IMB shares the view of staff that this displayed a huge waste of taxpayers' money and unimaginative exploration of potential recycling opportunities to other areas of the public or charity sectors.”
The prison source added: “This report confirms these actions by the Ministry of Justice and the senior management of Dorchester Prison were more severe than those of some of the criminals interned there.
“I really cannot find the words to express my disgust.”
“The disposal of tools and equipment into skips for disposal was top quality professional equipment, for example battery operated hammer drills that cost £400 upwards and woodworking equipment that cost up to £4,000 - the list goes on.
“All of this equipment was in very good working condition.”
The insider added: “This has to be added to the £27 million spent on the prison over the past years, including the brand new hospital that was only open for six weeks before the prison closure was announced.
“This is about the actions that took place in a time of austerity, when council tax is rising and harsh cuts are being made throughout the country which we read in the paper every day.”
He said: “There should be a public investigation.
“Unfortunately, I don't think the crime committed will ever be answered truthfully as those in office are without scruples, caring only for themselves, not others.”
The IMB report states that there also should have been 'greater coordination' with the Ministry of Justice over the investment of £2.4million in a new medical centre in the summer of 2013.
The Echo revealed in September that more than £7.3m has been wasted on refurbishing the prison in the last three years.
It includes a £1.3m medical suite as well as a new roof, windows and visitor centre.
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.
“Why couldn't these items and furniture have been used in the community?”
The prison source also hit out against the deployment of staff from the North Square jail to other prisons across the country, racking up huge hotel, living and travel costs, as previously reported in the Echo.
WHEN contacted by the Echo about the issue in November, 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 or recycled.
“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 REPORT raised further concerns about healthcare and education at the now closed facility that prisoners faced a long wait for mental health problems to be assessed and prisoners who were sectioned had to often wait longer for a secure bed than they should have.
The board received information about other healthcare issues such as the time taken to confirm prescribed medications and prisoners disagreeing with their treatment.
In terms of education the IMB also claimed many prisoners were unable to complete courses they had started due to interruptions from court appearances, legal visits or 'the constraints if the prison's regime'.
The IMB backed comments made by prisons minister Jeremy Wright that the closure should in no way be seen as a 'reflection of the hard work and commitment of the staff, nor the prison's performance'.
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