Jack Straw receives thumbs down from sector for Titan prisons

Government plans to build three “Titan” prisons to tackle overcrowding have received “near unanimous opposition” from criminal justice campaigners.

Justice secretary Jack Straw announced the government’s intention to create the large-scale prisons, each capable of holding around 2,500 inmates, in December last year. However, in response to a government consultation ending this week, a wide coalition of campaign groups has called for the programme to be halted.

An open letter signed by 34 leading criminal justice organisations via the Criminal Justice Alliance has been sent to Straw outlining “serious concerns” over the well-being and safety of prisoners. Campaign director Jon Collins said the prisons would fail to reduce crime or tackle the high re-offending rate. He added: “Such is the level of informed opposition to Titans, these plans should by now be dead in the water.”

Mental health concerns

One of the signatories, the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health, warned that the larger, more impersonal jails could lead to a “mental health crisis” and that an extra £7m needed to be earmarked for the prisons’ mental health services. The charity’s criminal justice director, Sean Duggan added: “By investing £2.8 billion in three new prisons, funds for diverting people with mental health problems out of custody are at risk of being over-stretched.”

The Prison Reform Trust said the proposal would “destabilise the criminal justice system”. In a report released today, Titan prisons: a gigantic mistake, the charity championed smaller prisons as a safer and more effective alternative. Director Juliet Lyon said: “The government is on the verge of making a massive, costly and hugely damaging mistake.”

The National Council for Independent Monitoring Boards, which represents voluntary prison watchdogs, also added its opposition. President Dr Peter Selby said the lack of any reference to independent monitoring in the consultation “verges on the sinister”.

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