SNP Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill’s decision to close Noranside Prison is badly thought out and must be reconsidered.
Rumours of the planned closure of Noranside had been rejected as “groundless” by the SNP Government in late November. Now we hear the opposite is true. This is the worst possible Christmas present from the SNP Government for the 55 employees at Noranside and their families.
It will also be a blow to the many shops and businesses in Forfar and Angus who supply the prison. To hear this in the week leading up to Christmas could hardly be worse.
Noranside has been underused recently, purely because of Mr MacAskill’s own decisions. We are now hearing that many long term prisoners are already being released directly to the community, rather than via open prisons such as Noranside. There has to be a real worry about public safety following this ill judged decision.
Angus Cllr David May also commented:
“It is all very well for the SNP minister to say there will be no compulsory redundancies but it is a fact that either the staff will have to move and leave Angus or they will lose their jobs. So much for the assurance that they will be redeployed as the minister is really giving those at Noranside the worst possible Christmas present”
Local Cllr Alison Andrews is on the visiting committee of the prison, and was told recently that there was no chance it was in line for closure.
“The work that goes on at Noranside is absolutely brilliant. Some of these prisoners have been locked up for 20 years or more and it’s vital that we give them some preparation and training before they go back to life outside.”
“If that layer is removed from of the justice system, prisoners will be released directly from closed institutions after years and years, straight out into a completely different world for them. Their chances of coping with these huge changes are much better if they have had the excellent support, training and preparation from Noranside.”
“I know for a fact that reoffending rates are not as high among those who have had the opportunity to be in an open prison.”
Mrs Andrews is also worried about the future of civilian employees and the way this directly affect them.