The Verne is to return to its former role as a men’s prison.

HMP the Verne will change function to a Category C male adult prison just three years after a multi-million-pound re-role when it became an Immigration Removal Centre (IRC). 

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The Verne Immigration Removal Centre will be closing and will be reopened as a Category C prison in 2018. 

“We keep our immigration detention estate under constant review and the closure of the Verne IRC is part of our ongoing modernisation work.

“We will invest in the site to ensure HMP the Verne is a safe, secure and fit for purpose prison building.”

They added the transfer of detainees from the Verne would begin immediately to various removal centres across the Home Office estate. 

An employee of HMP Young Offenders Institute, also on Portland, said: “There are a lot of questions that need to be answered for the staff. How long will it be shut for? What’s going to happen to them? Will they have to go on detached duty? It’s all up in the air.” 

The Verne was formerly a Category C medium security prison for 607 men until 2014 when a multi-million-pound re-role saw it become an IRC.

According to the Ministry of Justice, Category C prisons are “for inmates who cannot be trusted in open prison, but who have been recognised as being unlikely to make any attempt at escape.”

Inmates at Category C prisons normally have a previous sentence of 12 months or more for crimes related to violence, arson, drug dealing, importation, threat of violence or sex-related offences, are currently serving a sentence longer than 12 months for similar crimes or have a history of breaching bail within a three-year period, failing to surrender or absconding.

The Verne currently houses up to 580 immigration detainees whilst their cases are assessed by Home Office Immigration Enforcement.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Centres like the Verne hold foreign nationals waiting to hear back decisions on their asylum claims or those waiting deportation following a failed application. Detaining and removing people with no right to be in the UK, with dignity and respect, is an essential part of maintaining effective immigration controls.”

Concerns were raised in March about the effects of detention after campaigners said many had little or no indication about how long they would remain at the centre. 

A report released by the Independent Monitoring Board’s (IMB) in July, 2017 said it was a ‘well-run establishment where detainees are treated with decency, fairness and respect.’