Former Argent partner Tony Giddings has been confirmed as development adviser on the £1.3bn “Super Prisons” programme, the first of which is already being built in Wrexham.
Chancellor George Osborne and Justice Secretary Michael Gove unveiled the major new prison reform programme including plans to build 9 new prisons in last year’s spending review, with five of the new prisons to be open before the end of this parliament. The government will also expand existing prisons in Stocken and Rye Hill.
Giddings said “he was hoping to instil the Argent ethos of “more collaboration” with construction suppliers into the government’s approach to procuring prisons.”
Giddings will provide support in the provision of management, technical capability and systems to manage the planning, design, procurement and delivery of the construction for the new prisons.
Giddings said “He understood the £1.3bn of funding was ring-fenced and highly unlikely to be threatened by recent political and economic turbulence.” and “admitted the prisons programme timetable was “challenging”, with sites still to be acquired, but he said the aim was to be on site with at least some by the end of the year.”
The new programme will modernise the prison estate to make it even more efficient, safer and focused on supporting prisoner rehabilitation, while selling ageing, inefficient prisons on prime real estate to free up land for new homes.
This will allow over 3000 new homes to be built, boosting house building in urban areas and helping thousands of working people achieve their dream of owning a home. The Victorian prison site at Reading will be the first to be sold.
By investing in the prison estate, the government will reduce running costs in prisons by £80 million a year. New investment will also fund video conference centres, allowing up to 90,000 cases to be heard from prison instead of court.
According to Justice Secretary Michael Gove, “currently half of criminals re-offend within one year of being released, and nearly half of all prisoners go into prison without any qualifications.”
The programme will reduce reoffending through creating the physical conditions for Governors to achieve improved educational, training and rehabilitative outcomes, and aims to reduce the cost of transporting prisoners between courts and prisons. This builds on the probation reforms undertaken in the last Parliament, which will reduce the costs of the system and reinvest them into extending probation support to 45,000 short-sentence offenders for the first time, to tackle reoffending.
“We will be able to design out the dark corners which too often facilitate violence and drug-taking.” stated Michael Gove
Around 10,000 prison places will move from outdated sites to the new prisons, significantly improving rehabilitation.