The Bishop of Portsmouth has said he is "uncomfortable" with the closure of two prisons in his diocese.
The Right Reverend Christopher Foster has promised support for
prisoners and staff at Kingston Prison in Portsmouth and Camp Hill
Prison on the Isle of Wight.
The government announced this week that Kingston, Camp Hill and
several other prisons across England would be closing on economic
The Ministry of Justice is planning to replace the facilities with a new "super prison" holding more than 2,000 prisoners.
It hopes the prison closures will save around £63million a year in running costs.
The two prisons in the Anglican diocese of Portsmouth that are due to
close currently house a total of 800 prisoners. Unions claim up to 300
jobs could be lost.
Bishop Foster, who has visited the prisons in person, said: “I admit to
feeling uncomfortable at closing prisons purely on ‘economic’ grounds. For me, the bigger question is whether prisons are doing their job in terms of social justice. Are they able to rehabilitate prisoners so that they are better
educated, understand the impact of their crimes and want to turn their
lives around? If they are to be released, are they less likely to re-offend? Are
prisoners treated fairly, and are prison staff respected? Those are the
kind of questions I would ask."
Anglican chaplains lead worship and offer spiritual support to prisoners and staff at Kingston and Camp Hill.
They are supported by Christians who make regular visits to prisoners.
Bishop Foster said they would be available to all those worried about the closures.
“It’s always difficult when people lose their jobs. Although there will
be some re-deployment and voluntary redundancy, there are bound to be
some for whom that doesn’t apply, and that is sad for them and their
loved ones," he said.