One of the most vociferous proponents for the need of a prison in North Wales when the Welsh Affairs Committee discussed the matter last year was Hywel Williams the MP for Caernarfon. Martin Eaglestone suggests that Hywel is getting cold feet over the proposal having discovered that one of the sites proposed is in his own back yard!
I can understand Hywel's trepidation - I too believe that there should, in theory, be a prison somewhere in the north, but I don’t want an institution full of murderers, rapists and robbers built in my village thank you very much!
Having seen the list of proposed sites, I don’t think that any of them are really suitable. The best of the bunch is Bryn y Neuadd for access purposes. But Bryn y Neuadd is a former hospital for people with learning difficulties. Those of us who have worked in former institutions like Bryn y Neuadd have spent two generations trying to prove that living with a learning difficulty doesn’t equal bad.
Building a new institution for criminals on the site of an old institution for people who use to be derided as subnormal would undo a lot of the work that has been done over the past fifty years into normalising people who live with learning difficulties into mainstream society.
If one considers the needs of an ideal site for a north Wales prison, accessibility to courts, visitors and legal reps; the ability to take prisoners from south Wales and the north West of England to make up the numbers (there aren’t enough baddies in the north to justify an exclusively north Wales prison) etc. The site that stands out (for almost the same reasons) is the former Hotpoint site in Llandudno Junction - earmarked for National Assembly Offices.
How about a compromise, Hywel and Martin - Jail in the Junction and Assembly Offices in Ferodo?
Of course, if Assembly Members or Officials were serious in their desire to see a prison in north Wales they would, themselves, have spotted the Junction site as eminently suitable. The fact that they didn't proposes it as a possibility is proof that the north of Wales will never, ever have its own gaol!