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Statement from Martyn Underhill on new prison places

I welcome the announcement that HMP Guys Marsh will be expanded to accommodate more inmates.

The plan will see capacity increased at the north Dorset prison by 180 places with the construction of new house blocks.

Any investment in prisons that alleviates overcrowding and enhances officer and inmate safety is positive. However, I would also call for a similar focus in rehabilitation and resettlement services in order to break the cycle of reoffending and ultimately reduce prison numbers and ease the pressure on the UK’s jails.

This announcement could be particularly significant if seen in the context of another plan – the Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service reconfiguration project, which should see the majority of Dorset prisons housed within the county’s prisons ahead of their release into the community.

One of my main priorities as PCC has been to reduce reoffending, to stop the revolving door in which offenders are released from prison with no support.

Let me be very clear – people who are sent to prison have committed crimes and are there to be punished. But nobody benefits from a situation in which prisoners leave custody only to commit further crimes and end up back inside within weeks.

If prisoners are going to have any chance of a successful and crime free reintegration back into the community, it’s vital they have close family and community support.

For years we’ve desperately needed Dorset prisons for Dorset prisoners. This is an issue I’ve raised with successive Home Secretaries, Justice Secretaries and even Prime Ministers, and I’m glad to say  I’ve had a lot of support from our Police and Crime Panel and local MPs – particularly Richard Drax.

This week’s announcement of new prison places will, I hope, go some way to achieving that goal and helping reduce reoffending in our county.

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