Shepton Mallet prison closure announcement has had 'devastating impact'
The sudden closure of Shepton Mallet prison is having a devastating impact on prisoners and staff, the Bishop of Bath and Wells the Rt Rev Peter Price has said.
Bishop Peter, and the Bishop of Taunton, the Rt Rev Peter Maurice, have just completed their pilgrimage around the diocese, which began in 2007. It ended at Shepton Mallet where they visited prison chaplain the Rev Peter Browne, and met staff and inmates informally.
The prison is the UK’s oldest working prison and the Government announced last month that it is to close by March. Bishop Peter said: “This sudden announcement is having a devastating impact on prisoners and the staff.
“Any sense of security and community is being dismantled around the people involved at very short notice. The closure also raises big questions for the future of the site and the impact it will have on the town centre area of Shepton.”
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When the prison closure was announced last month, Shepton Mallet councillor John Parham said the loss was a blow, and that Mendip District Council would help staff if they are made redundant or can’t move to other jails miles away.
“I feel so sorry for prison staff.The prison has played a major part in the history of Shepton Mallet since 1610 and has been an important employer in the town,” he said.
“Not only does it employ a number of staff itself, but it also brings in services from the local area.
“The council will be doing all it can to support those who are facing redundancy as a result of this closure.”
The two bishops spent two days visiting people, businesses and organisations in the 20 parishes of the Shepton Mallet Deanery, including the ambulance station. Bishop Peter said: “I am constantly humbled by the people I meet around the diocese. So often their hard work, love and compassion are an inspiration.
“The ambulance crews and paramedics have been having a very tough time.
“I am hopeful for our future when I see the fantastic job the men and women do here in what are sometimes treacherous conditions. They’re an inspiration.”