Lancaster castle closes as a prison

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The prison in Lancaster Castle is set to close by the end of March, due to being “outdated and expensive”.

The prison, which has capacity for 238 people, is formed from a large part of Lancaster Castle, leased from Lancashire County Council with the land being owned by the Duchy of Lancaster.

The plans to close the prison come as part of Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke’s plans to reduce inmate numbers by 3,000 over the next four years. Since December, the number of inmates has decreased by around 2,000 inmates.

Other prison closures have been announced: Ashwell Prison in Rutland is a former army camp and has a capacity of 214. It will close with Lancaster at the end of March.

Morton Hall, a former RAF base in Lincolnshire will change to an immigration removal centre some time next year, taking its capacity of 392 from the prison service.

Currently, prisons in England and Wales are almost 5,000 below capacity. These closures will remove a total of 849 places from the service.

The inmates from all the prisons will be moved to others, and staff will be given the option of transfer or voluntary redundancy.

Clarke told the BBC: “The decision to close any prison is a difficult one but one that we have had to make. Closing outdated and expensive prisons is an important step in our strategy to provide a secure and modern, fit-for-purpose prison estate, while improving efficiency and value for the tax payer.

“The changes will reduce our current capacity by 849 places and I am confident that they can be safely managed within existing headroom, whilst maintaining our ability to cope with any increase in population.”

Lancaster Castle is a Men’s Category C prison – for those who are unlikely to try to escape, but are still not trusted in the conditions of an open prison. The structure also encompasses a museum about the medieval history of the castle, and a Crown Court.

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