THE lack of a prison in North Wales is a breach of basic human rights.
That’s the view of Chief Constable Richard Brunstrom, who is a strong supporter of the campaign for a community prison to be built in the region.
Offenders from North Wales are currently scattered in 25 prisons across the UK – as far afield as Newcastle and Dover.
As a result, says Mr Brunstrom, the European Convention of Human Rights is being contravened daily.
The Chief Constable is backing the campaign being mounted by the North Wales Criminal Justice Board to secure a multi-purpose prison.
The campaign is growing with support from every single criminal justice agency and all the local authorities in North Wales.
Two sites – in Wrexham and Caernarfon – are on a Welsh shortlist of four unveiled by Justice Minister David Hanson, the MP for Delyn.
The proposal consists of a community prison with different wings for male, female and young offenders.
Business leaders are behind the idea as a way of biting back at the credit crunch.
They point to the fact a prison would provide a huge boost to the regional economy as it would create 1,000 jobs and generate an annual income of £17m.
Experts also say, contrary to a popular myth, the area around a prison is a safer place to live as crime rates plummet.
Mr Brunstrom said: “First and foremost, a prison is needed for the reintegration of offenders back into society.
“Evidence shows clearly, if you disconnect offenders from their home environment, their culture and family, it’s much more difficult to reintegrate them into society.
“Secondly, we’re not complying with the European Convention of Human Rights. The way in which we are handling some of the most vulnerable people because we haven’t got custodial facilities is disgraceful.
“We have had Welsh speaking youngsters in custody as far afield as Newcastle and Dover. Although they are offenders, often they are fragile young people.
“If you’re trying to visit your son or daughter in Newcastle, and you live in somewhere like Blaenau Ffestiniog, you’re talking about a two-day trip if you haven’t got a car.
“I give great credit to David Hanson MP for facing up to this issue and realising there is a debate about whether a prison for North Wales is not just attractive but also necessary.
“I think it is an open and shut case. There has to be a small-to-medium, multi-functional prison in North Wales. It is essential.”
Cllr Ian Roberts, chairman of North Wales Police Authority, is in full agreement a new prison is essential.
He said: “The crime prevention agenda is growing all the time and rightly so – and because of the absence of a prison, crime prevention has to take a back seat.
“A prison would make North Wales a safer and more prosperous place to live.”