PORTLAND prison HMP Verne will be changed to an immigration removal centre under new plans announced today.

Today’s announcement by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said the prison will provide around 600 additional places to hold immigration detainees awaiting removal from the country.

Speaking about today’s decision, Prisons Minister Jeremy Wright said:

“This decision was not taken lightly and is in no way a reflection of the hard work and commitment of staff, nor of the prison’s performance.

“However, we cannot shy away from the fact that funds are limited and we need to make sure we are meeting the needs of the prison population, as well as wider Government needs, in the most efficient way so as to maximise value for the taxpayer.

“We will do all we can to offer support and ensure the prison continues to operate safely and securely in the run-up to the change in role.”

Work to change the function of HMP The Verne will begin immediately.

Existing staff will continue to run the site but the Home Office will meet the costs of its operation.

Offenders housed at The Verne will be moved to other suitable prison accommodation.

The announcement has been welcomed by South Dorset MP Richard Drax.

He told the Dorset Echo: "With Dorchester prison closing and other prisons being targeted it is a relief I am sure to the staff at HMP Verne that the prison officers there will have a new role.

"As I understand it, the prison officer's jobs will be secure and they will be retrained.

"There could also be more jobs there after the prison has taken on its new role later this year.

"There is quite a significant investment int he prison as it gets equipped for its new role."

The planned re-role comes as part of a wider programme to modernise the prison estate, which will also see HMPs Downview and Warren Hill change function by the start of next year.

Also announced today was the news that nearby HMP Dorchester will completely close by the end if the year.

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What do you think?

Do you work at the prison or have a family member that does? Or do you visit an inmate there and are concerned about them moving further away? If so contact Miriam Phillips in confidence on 01305 263465 or email miriam.phillips@dorsetecho.co.uk