City jail facing an uncertain future

***EDI***'Preston Prison

***EDI***'Preston Prison

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HMP Preston could be facing a death sentence after the Government announced plans to knock down outdated and overcrowded jails.

The Ministry of Justice has denied it has drawn up a hit list of inner city Victorian institutions to make way for nine new “warehouse super-prisons” due to be opened over the next few years.

But with Preston twice holding the dubious title of the most over-crowded in England and Wales in recent years, the 175-year-old jail is almost certain to be in the firing line as ministers look to completely modernise the service.

“Nothing has been decided yet,” a spokesman for the Justice Ministry told the Evening Post. “No plan has been announced, so it is purely speculation at this stage.”

Chancellor George Osborne unveiled the Government’s programme of nine new prisons last week, saying they could replace ageing jails which could then be demolished to make way for thousands of much-needed homes. But exactly where they will be sited remains a closely-guarded secret in Whitehall.

“Some of our jails are relics from Victorian times on prime real estate in our inner cities,” he said. “So we are going to reform the infrastructure of our prison system, building new institutions which are modern, suitable and rehabilitative.

“And we will close old, outdated prisons in city centres and sell the sites to build thousands of much-needed homes.”

Justice Minister Michael Gove added: “The investment will mean we can replace ageing and ineffective Victorian prisons with new facilities fit for the modern world.”

Preston Prison was built in 1840, closed in 1931, re-opened for military use in 1939 and returned to being a civilian jail in 1948.

In 2004 the Category B prison had 90 per cent of inmates sharing cells built as singles.