Oxford

Apology over Huntercombe Young Offenders unit closure

Huntercombe Young Offenders Institution
Image caption Huntercombe is expected to re-open in the Autumn

The MP for Henley says he has had an apology from the organisation which runs a young offenders institution over plans to shut it.

The National Offender Management Service (NOMS) is closing Huntercombe in Oxfordshire at the end of June and will re-open it as an adult prison.

Henley MP John Howell has criticised the way the closure has been handled.

He has arranged for two NOMS officials to meet local residents to explain the decision in more detail on Thursday.

The facility, which is between Wallingford and Henley-on-Thames, currently holds about 150 15 to 18-year-olds.

NOMS said there had been a decrease in the number of juveniles in custody and it was no longer cost effective to maintain Huntercombe as a young offenders institution.

'Major decision'

A proposal was put forward to use HMYOI Huntercombe to hold adult prisoners instead.

The move only came to light two weeks ago when details were leaked to the BBC.

Mr Howell said: "A decision of this magnitude for the change of use of Huntercombe is potentially a major one for those living near the institution.

"There are certain services such as sewage which the local houses share with the prison so there are things they need to understand and it's good to have the officials coming in order to explain what the change is and what it might mean for people."

The MP hopes that a liaison committee will now be established to ensure better communication between Huntercombe and the local community in the future.

The process of decommissioning the facility is expected to take eight to 12 weeks.

'Value for money'

A Prison Service spokesperson said: "Meeting prison capacity requirements more efficiently will improve value for money for the taxpayer and contribute savings to reduce the budget deficit.

"The number of young people in custody is falling, so it makes sense for us to release the surplus capacity.

"The decision has been taken to move young people from HMYOI Huntercombe to other suitable establishments from 7 June.

"We are now working towards using Huntercombe for adult male prisoners."

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