Two mega prisons for 3,500 inmates set to be built near RAF base

The prisons are set to be built around RAF Wethersfield near Braintree, Essex

The prisons are set to be built around RAF Wethersfield near Braintree, Essex - Credit: Google Earth

Two giant prisons holding nearly 3,500 inmates between them could be built on land around an RAF air base in north Essex under government proposals.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has published plans for the new jails at Wethersfield air base, around six miles north of Braintree.

The site will hold category B and category C adult male prisoners in two prisons that each have a total capacity of 1,715, according to documents setting out the plans.

MoJ documents say one of the centres will be a training prison, meaning it will hold "long-term and high-security prisoners".

The other is planned to be a resettlement prison, which would hold lower-risk prisoners and prepare them for release.

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Some of the inmates at the prison could be released on temporary licence during their sentence.

Newly-appointed prisons minister Victoria Atkins said the government is expecting to see an "increase in demand for prison places" as court activity begins to ramp up following the end of Covid restrictions.

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In the MoJ's consultation papers, Mrs Atkins said: "As part of our work to drive down crime, we have committed to creating 18,000 additional prison places by the mid-2020s’, through a combination of building new prisons, as well as extending, refurbishing and maintaining existing prisons.

"We believe that, following detailed feasibility work, land next to Wethersfield air base would be a good location for two new prisons as part of the prison estates strategy.

"Our plans, if successful, would bring many benefits to the local community, such as hundreds of jobs during construction, careers within the prison sector and an increased spend in local businesses."

Mrs Atkins added: "The increasing numbers of police, in line with the Prime Minister’s commitment to recruit 20,000 additional officers, may contribute to a higher prison population, and we therefore believe that creating more safe, secure and decent prison places will help to mitigate pressure on prison places in England and Wales in the coming years.”

The MoJ said a public consultation - which closes on November 8 - is "seeking the views of residents and businesses" on the plans.

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