No Plans to Keep Portland's Verne as a Prison, Despite Speculation
3:39pm 19th March 2014
(Updated 6:48am 20th March 2014)
The Ministry of Justice has told Wessex FM, the Verne on Portland will start taking Immigration Detainees as planned from Monday (24th March).
They've admitted work to fully transform the jail into an Immigration Removal Centre won't be finished until September, longer than expected.
But there are no plans to keep the Verne as a prison as it was speculated by other media yesterday.
It will still be called a prison until the transformation is complete, but rumours that it's to go back to its old use are unfounded.
The Ministry of Justice told us there are no plans to review staffing levels at this time, see below for their official statement.
"HMP The Verne will begin holding immigration detainees from 24 March 2014.
Build-up to its total capacity of 580 will be completed by September.
While build-up takes place and until refurbishment is completed, NOMS will retain The Verne as a prison, but it will hold exclusively immigration detainees on behalf of the Home Office.
"This temporary arrangement does not affect the number of staff employed by NOMS at The Verne - there are no current plans to review staff levels."
South Dorset MP Richard Drax said he would've been "shocked" if plans were backtracked and the Verne was to remain a prison on the island.
Work to transform the jail into an immigration removal centre has been under way for months, with contractors carrying out structural work and installing high fences.
The Ministry of Justice announced the old Victorian jail was to change and take immigrant detainees in September last year (2013), along with the news that Dorchester's prison was being closed for good in December.
At the time MP Richard Drax told us he's "relieved" the Verne is to stay open despite the closure in Dorchester;
"It's going to have a new lease of life with a new role. New money and new money invested it, staff and prison officers will retain their jobs as I understand it. So instead of a closure we have a future which I think is good news."