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'Super-prison' plans are unveiled
Six prisons are to close in England, the Ministry of Justice has said as it unveiled plans to build a so-called super-prison.
Some 2,600 offenders are held at the prisons targeted for closure, plus three sites which will be partially shut down.
Prisons at Bullwood Hall, Canterbury, Gloucester, Kingston, Shepton Mallet and Shrewsbury will close, while Chelmsford, Hull and Isle of Wight will see some accommodation reduced.
A feasibility study on what would be Britain's largest prison in London, the North West or North Wales, holding more than 2,000 prisoners, is also to begin, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said.
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said: "We have to bring down the cost of our prison system, much of which is old and expensive. But I never want the courts to be in a position where they cannot send a criminal to prison because there is no place available. So we have to move as fast as we can to replace the older parts of our prison system."
In addition to the super-prison Mr Grayling unveiled plans for four new mini-prisons known as houseblocks. It is intended they will be at existing prisons at Parc in South Wales, Peterborough in Cambridgeshire, the Mount in Hertfordshire, and Thameside in London.
The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union said the decision to close six prisons and part-close three facilities was "irresponsible", while imminent redundancies will hit local economies.
PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "These closures are unnecessary, irresponsible and amount to more privatisation by stealth.
"The fact this is happening without any public debate or discussion ought to be a national scandal and we urgently need an independent review to look at the impact of prison privatisation on our communities, staff and prisoners."
Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan said there were "no replacement places guaranteed in the short term" for the closures announced. He said: "You don't magic new prison places out of fresh air in an instant to replace those being closed - it takes a stable rolling programme of investment, with many years of planning and construction."