Prison delays 'may have cost millions'

“Appalling” delays in getting the £33m extension to Wayland Prison up and running may have cost taxpayers millions of pounds, says an independent watchdog.

“Appalling” delays in getting the £33m extension to Wayland Prison up and running may have cost taxpayers millions of pounds, says an independent watchdog.

The claim is contained in Wayland Prison Independent Monitoring Board's annual report and is among a range of concerns with the

300-bed extension, officially opened by justice minister Lord Bach earlier this month.

But the prison's deputy governor says the cost of the overrun had been greatly overestimated.

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The IMB report says: “As taxpayers, we are appalled at the delays in the delivery of the new build and the amount of remedial work required from the contractors and Wayland maintenance staff after the buildings had been officially accepted.

“We estimate that this four-month-plus delay, and assuming consequent use of police cells at £300 per night, would have hypothetically cost a staggering £8.19m, almost 25pc of the Prison Service overall savings required by the Treasury in this financial year.”

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The expensive practice of holding prisoners in police stations in “safeguarding cells, is an emergency measure only used when all prison places in the country are full.

Wayland's deputy governor Sharon Kelvie said none of the prisoners who would have been transferred into the new wing would have been held in safeguarding cells because they were all transferred in from other prisons.

The extension has taken the category C prison, situated between Watton and Thetford, from a capacity of 717 to 1,017 inmates.

Brenda Upton, chairman of Wayland IMB said that overall Wayland deserved praise as a “high performing, low cost,” facility but the report catalogues a number of other concerns with the new five-block extension.

It says the facility suffers from a general lack of space and problems with ventilation and says “with 60 prisoners milling around on association in each wing, the atmosphere is decidedly claustrophobic.”

Mrs Kelvie said that the design of the new prison blocks was compact but there had been no discontent among prisoners in the wings.

The extension will also have to be largely powered by a diesel generator for up to two years while adequate national grid supply can be installed, a problem the IMB attributes to the rush in which the extra cells were built.

Concerns are also raised that prisoners are still being denied the level of mental and general health care to which they should be entitled and that inadequate funding of

the prison's integrated drug treatment

system could leave prisoners dependent on methadone rather than freeing them from drugs.

Mrs Kelvie said that these issues were being dealt with in conjunction with Norfolk Primary Care Trust.

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