Dartmoor Prison

3rd May 2018

Torridge and West Devon MP, Geoffrey Cox QC, has made strong representations to the Prisons Minister, Rory Stewart MP, to keep Dartmoor Prison open during a meeting on Wednesday 2 May.

The Prison has been under the threat of closure since 2013 when the Government issued a 10-year notice that it would vacate the site to the prison's landlord, the Duchy of Cornwall.

The MP was impressed to see the high standards maintained in the prison during a recent visit and meeting with the Governor, staff, officers and representatives of the Prison Officers Association.

Mr Cox was escorted by the Deputy Governor, Pete Lewis, on an inspection of the estate, which was recently rated as ‘reasonably good’ by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons whose report found that inmates were generally positive about the amenities offered, and staff-prisoner relationships were very good.

The Prison, overall, received a similarly positive finding from the Independent Monitoring Board.

Following the visit, Mr Cox has formed a parliamentary group of South West MPs, whose constituents will be affected by the decision to close the prison, to open discussions with the Government over its future and led the group of MPs to meet the Minister of State on Wednesday.

Mr Cox said:

“My recent visit to Dartmoor Prison has reaffirmed my conviction that the retention and continuity of the Prison is important to the local community and to the prison service.

The Prison has continued to improve in recent years under robust leadership and I was impressed by the dedication of officers and staff to the wellbeing of the prisoners. As the HMIP report noted, the Prison provides excellent and innovative mental health support and high quality palliative care.

As I said in 2013, it is our duty to do something positive and useful with the Prison for the future. Having again witnessed first-hand the facilities and services provided at Dartmoor, against the backdrop of the pressures facing our prisons up and down the country, I believe that the most sensible option is to keep the Prison open.

The Duchy of Cornwall is keen to see the prison remain in being. There will have to be complex discussions with the Duchy about how there could be new arrangements to keep it open and renovate the buildings.

In my meeting with the Prisons Minister I emphasised not only how important the Prison is to the local economy on and around Dartmoor but how well run the prison regime is.

I am pleased that the Minister recognised that there is a powerful case for keeping the Prison open and, although he pointed out that the buildings are in need of radical renovation, I am confident that if we can address this important question, there is a real possibility of maintaining Dartmoor prison for many years to come.

I think there is a genuine window of opportunity for both the Duchy and Ministry of Justice to reach an agreement and to that end I will continue my discussions with the Ministry to help find a solution that will benefit the local community.

BBC News

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