A MAGISTRATE has joined the growing campaign for a prison in North Wales saying “it’s crazy” one hasn’t been built already.
According to Michael Bishop, who has been a JP for 12 years, it’s vital the region gets a multi-purpose prison with different sections for male, female and young offenders.
Mr Bishop is the latest prominent figure from the criminal justice world to speak out as the campaign gathers momentum.
He believes the absence of facilities in North Wales is a major hindrance to courts and inflicts an injustice on the families of offenders.
The campaign is spearheaded by the North Wales Local Criminal Justice Board, who revealed prisoners from North Wales are scattered around 25 prisons in the UK – as far away as Durham and Essex.
Two potential sites in North Wales – one in Wrexham and the other in Caernarfon – are on a Ministry of Justice shortlist.
A study has shown a prison would create 1,000 jobs and provide an annual £17m boost to the regional economy.
Mr Bishop, a member of the bench in Wrexham, chairman of the Probation Liaison Committee and a former member of the Youth Panel, says it is imperative North Wales doesn’t lose out.
He said: “It’s absolutely crazy we have people from North Wales in custody in 25 different prisons in England. It’s ridiculous.
“While it’s right to punish the offender, if you place them in a prison many miles away you are also punishing the family.
“They have to find the money up front to get a train ticket and, while it’s refundable, the fare can be difficult to fund – depending on the location it can cost a family up to £250.
“It also makes it difficult for probation officers because they have a statutory duty to visit offenders. If they have to go to somewhere like Durham or Essex, it’s maybe a two-day trip.
“The ramifications are quite serious as if you make it difficult to rehabilitate people and re-integrate them back into society, it makes it more likely they re-offend.
“The whole idea of custody was that the offender never went back – but sadly that’s not so.”
He added: “Thanks to the A55, we have excellent road links and having a prison here would make access a lot easier for everybody.”