'Super-prison' could be built in Throckmorton village
Jun 6 2008 By Jonathan Walker, Political Editor
A Worcestershire village used as the burial site for 100,000 animal carcasses during the foot-and-mouth epidemic could now become the home of a giant ‘titan’ prison.
Throckmorton is being considered as a potential site for a new prison holding up to 2,500 prisoners and covering at least 50 acres.
It follows predictions that the prison population of the West Midlands is expected to shoot up by 1,500 people over the next six years.
The Ministry of Justice estimates prisoner numbers will increase from 8,700 today to 10,200 in 2014, up by 17 per cent.
Ministers released the figures as they set out further details of plans for titan prisons in the West Midlands, North-west and London.
The plans were condemned by the Howard League, which campaigns for reform of the penal system and claims smaller institutions would be more effective at reducing re-offending.
Andrew Neilson, the league’s assistant director, said: “This would be a massive issue for local people in the areas the prisons are built.
“If you have a prison riot with 2,500 prisoners, it is a matter not for the police but for the Army.”
He added: “Titan prisons are an attempt to get justice on the cheap.”
A former RAF base at Throckmorton was used to bury carcasses during the foot-and-mouth outbreak in 2001. The area was also considered as the location for a new asylum centre.
The same site is now under consideration to house the West Midlands titan prison.
Mid Worcestershire MP Peter Luff (Con) is to table a series of parliamentary questions asking ministers to confirm which sites they are looking at.
He said: “There is no doubt that we do need more prison places, so in principle this may be the right thing to do. I will want to know which sites are being considered and what exactly it will mean for the surrounding area. I will also want to know how the prison will be organised. But the need for additional prison capacity is clear.”
Ministers announced plans for three titan facilities last year in an effort to end the prison overcrowding crisis.
New details published by the Minister of Justice show each facility will include modern security technology, including bio-metric scanners and electronic doors. A consultation paper states the prison should be built on “preferably brown-field” land, but there is no guarantee that undeveloped land will not be used. It rules out the use of the green belt.
Ministers also anticipate a battle with local residents opposed to the development, once a location is decided.
Leading critics of the titan prison proposals include judge and QC Cherie Blair, wife of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is President of the Commission on English Prisons. She recently warned it would be harder to offer prisoners treatment in titan prisons.
She said: “They will, in other words, pose a real threat to public safety.”