Britain Secretly Converts Prisons To Detain Foreign Criminals Only

Britain secretly converts prisons to detain foreign criminals only

Richard Ford,
Home Correspondent
From The Times
October 24, 2007

Two jails in England and Wales are occupied fully by foreign inmates as the Prison Service tries to cope with a large number of criminals from abroad.

The prisons are part of a small network that specialises in detaining foreign-born offenders, many of whom are awaiting deportation. If they prove to be a success, the Prison Service may expand the network to cater for many more of the 11,200 foreigners who are in jail.

The Prison Service converted Bullwood Hall and Canterbury prisons into specialist jails for foreigners without making a formal announcement of the policy.

Bullwood Hall womens prison, in Essex, has held foreign male prisoners since June and Canterbury prison was changed in May. A total of 187 prisoners are in Bullwood Hall jail and 284 are in Canterbury. At Morton Hall womens prison in Lincolnshire, 70 per cent of the 347 inmates are foreign. At the Verne, a male prison in Dorset, 65 per cent of the 587 offenders are foreign, as are 300 of the 704 male prisoners in the Mount jail in Hertfordshire.

The largest group of foreign prisoners at the Verne is Nigerian, while at Morton Hall there are prisoners from 50 countries, including 14 EU states.

Last year the Morton Hall Independent Monitoring Board, a local watchdog, suggested to government ministers that the jail should only hold foreigners.

Jails in London contain an even higher number of foreigners, including 561 in Wormwood Scrubs and 426 in Wandsworth.

Anne Owers, Chief Inspector of Prisons, will disclose the presence of the specialist jails in a report on the mental health of prisoners to be published today. Her report said that the mental health team at Bullwood Hall worked with foreign prisoners who required constant health cover. The jail received male prisoners with severe mental illnesses who also required emotional support. The team was finding it difficult to provide help because of language and cultural barriers.

Ms Owers said that it was easier to provide specialist services in one place than for them to be spread around the prison system. She said that she was not opposed to the idea of separating prisoners in this way if it proved successful. She added that foreign prisoners often needed help with immigration issues and language.

The Prison Service said that the decision to create specialist prisons reflected the need to deport foreigners as quickly as possible after they had served their sentence. Officials from the Border and Immigration Agency worked in each jail to identify immigration issues and speed up deportation procedures.

The number of foreign prisoners deported in the financial year 2006-07 was 2,784, and the Border and Immigration Service said that it expected to meet the target of 4,000 set for the end of this year.

Nick Herbert, Shadow Justice Secretary, said: Gordon Brown pledged that all foreign criminals would be deported. Now we understand that two entire prisons are dedicated to holding foreign nationals while the rest of the prison estate is bursting at the seams.

There are currently 11,200 foreign inmates in our jails almost one in seven of the prison population. If the Government kept its promise to deport them, there would be extra space in our jails and no reason to release other prisoners early.


Over here and in jail

81,533 Total prison population

3,446 Foreign citizens in prison 1993

11,200 Foreigners in prison 2007

10,230 Foreign men

970 Foreign women

1,464 Jamaicans in jail

1,061 Nigerians in jail

25% The proportion of foreign inmates convicted of drug offences

Sources: Chief Inspector of Prisons, Prison Reform Trust


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