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Staff say Farewell to Historic Dorchester Prison

DOrchester Prison

12:05pm 17th December 2013

Staff at Dorchester's Prison are reuniting for one final time to bid farewell.

The Ministry of Justice announced the Victorian jail was closing in September to make way for more investment into their Super Jail programme.

Governor Carole Draper will address staff at a private ceremony inside the historic prison before the arrival of special guests and dignitaries for a sending off outside the front entrance. Dorset PCC Martyn Underhill, Police Commissioners, Politicians and old Governors are all expected to be there, including a former Governor who's travelled over from Australia for the ceremony.

The closure is a loss of 300 jobs to the County Town with the vast majority of staff transferring to the Verne and Portland's YOI - some have taken voluntary redundancy.

Exclusively speaking to Wessex FM outgoing Governor Carole Draper, who has worked in the prison service for 30 years, said the staff in Dorchester have been incredible;

"I've covered a lot of jails in my time, but I have to say these were some of the best relationships between staff and prisoner that I've ever seen. That's not something they're trained for! That's from an inner strength that the staff have somewhere or another. We will all move on but I have some fond memories of the staff here and I've thoroughly enjoyed working with them."

Rachael Amore is the Governors Secretary and has worked at the prison for 3 years;

"It's been lovely, the people have been the best part I think, it's like one big family. There are some people who've worked here for more than 30 years so there are some great connections here."

Operations Support Grade Michelle Glover has worked at the Dorchester Prison for 14 years and told us she's learned a lot from the place;

"I joined when I was 21 years old so it's been a big part of my life. The whole prison is like one massive family, I feel like I grew up here. I hope I can hold my emotions in check when we close, but I'm looking forward to everyone getting together after the ceremony."

Custodial Manager Dave Rowledge has seen many characters come and go during his 10 year tenure;

"What struck me most when I came to Dorchester is the feeling of community and family involvement, not only amongst staff but amongst prisoners; normally we get on quite well with them in this settled community. It is sad, but we're all moving onto pastures new. I have happy memories and a lot of fond memories of this place."

The historic site that was built in the 1880's was deemed too old and small to bring up to modern standards. That's despite large investment in new buildings and a health care centre on the grounds.

Some have said the decision to close is misguided and recent investments have been a waste of taxpayers money.

The closure is a loss of 300 jobs to the County Town with the vast majority of staff transferring to the Verne and Portland's YOI - some have taken voluntary redundancy.

The Dorchester Prison was named "Most Improved" in 2008. But now, for the first time since the 14th century our County Town won't have a jail to call it's own.

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