John Baron MP has referred to the Information Commissioner the Government’s refusal to allow his Freedom of Information request for a list of sites currently being considered for the Titan prisons. These prisons would house at least 2,500 inmates – more than double the size of Britain’s current jails.
A letter from Justice Minister David Hanson MP confirmed plans to build a Titan prison in the Thames Corridor/Thames Gateway, but refused to list possible sites for fear of “prejudicing the commercial interests” of the Government. A second letter from Shahid Malik MP confirmed that Ministers want to retain the option of buying land before announcing their plans for a jail or undertaking a consultation.
Ministers want to buy the land for a Titan prison without even telling local residents. Any consultation which takes place after land has been bought is bound to be a sham, because communities will be presented with a ‘done deal’.
I have asked the Commissioner to look at this matter because the public interest in favour of transparency and full consultation must override commercial factors, and because Ministers have still refused to rule out Basildon as one of the sites
We do urgently need more prison places to tackle chronic overcrowding, but Titan prisons are not the way to go: all the evidence shows that smaller prisons provide better rehabilitation outcomes.
SH adds: The key local concern is if one of these places is destined for Basildon. We do need more prisons, especially given the rate at which Labour's opponents are being arrested, but we need an open and transparent process for deciding locations, not Home Office whim.