Controversial proposals to turn part of two jails into open prisons have been shelved, it emerged today.
The Ministry of Justice said HMP Featherstone and HMP Oakwood would not have their security categorisations changed following an outcry from villagers.
The proposals would have seen prisoners at Featherstone allowed into the community, as well as a Category D wing created at Oakwood.
But Jeremy Wright MP, parliamentary under secretary of state for justice, confirmed the news in a letter to South Staffordshire MP Gavin Williamson who today welcomed the development.
Mr Wright wrote: “Following an extensive evaluation of the work and the related costs involved in converting part of the accommodation, we have decided not to proceed with the partial change in function of the prison that we discussed in November last year. Consequently, we have no current plans to change the security categorisation of Featherstone, or Oakwood prison.”
Plans to turn part of Featherstone prison into an open prison were first revealed in August last year but sparked controversy among villagers.
They feared a change would mean hundreds of prisoners would be able to travel to and from the prison for work and roam the community. And ministers said earlier this year Oakwood would soon be establishing a Category D wing.
Mr Williamson said: “In my view, it was an extremely dangerous scheme which could have severely compromised the safety and security of residents. I am delighted that the Ministry of Justice has seen sense and chosen to abandon these ridiculous proposals,” he said.
It can be revealed today the two prisons have been selected to become new ‘resettlement prisons’. Offenders will be moved to prisons near where they live before release, under MoJ plans to cut reoffending.
Resettlement prisons will come into force from autumn 2014 and will see inmates move at least three months before their release.Featherstone is a category C men’s prison with more than 600 prisoners, while Oakwood – which has recently been criticised in a report and dubbed ‘Jokewood’ – opened in 2012 and has 1,600 inmates.