A top county politician has demanded an audience with the Justice Secretary to discuss the future of Lincoln Prison.
Councillor Martin Hill, Leader of Lincolnshire County Council, has asked the city’s MP to set up a meeting with Chris Grayling.
He said: “I’ve met with Karl McCartney and asked him to arrange a meeting with Justice Secretary Chris Grayling so local concerns can be voiced face-to-face.
“We’re anticipating a positive response to this request, and are preparing all of the information we believe he should have before giving any further consideration to the idea of removing the local remand status of Lincoln Prison.
“We want to explain to the Lord Chancellor just how important the prison is to Lincoln, and we look forward to having the opportunity of presenting our case to him.
“The prison is essential for driving down re-offending rates and making sure justice is delivered locally.
“If we lost the prison, there would also be a significant impact on the county economy.”
Not only does the prison employ hundreds of people, it also contributes more than £11m to the local economy each year.
Mr Hill added: “Given that £26m has been spent on improvements over the last three years, it makes sense to continue using it as a prison. It wasn’t designed to be an immigration centre, and isn’t suited for that purpose.
“We also want to make it clear that while any changes might represent potential savings to the prison service, it will certainly mean additional costs for everybody else.
“Recently, I’ve taken the opportunity to visit the prison with our chief executive Tony McArdle to view the facilities first-hand.
“We met with the new governor Peter Wright, and we were particularly impressed with the improvements he has put into place.
“I’m more convinced than ever that the prison should stay where it is.”
Meanwhile a former charity worker has warned closing Lincoln Prison would deal a “crushing blow” to the city’s already dampened community spirit.
Rosemary Clark launched Prison Fellowship Lincoln Group in 1979.
It is an initiative that sends volunteers into the Greetwell Road based site to visit inmates who have no family or friends to keep them company.
The North Hykeham resident volunteered to visit prisoners, for a period of 14 years.
She says replacing the prison with an immigration centre or even closing it altogether will have a detrimental effect on community spirit already at a low because of the economic gloom.
“We need a local prison - there is absolutely no doubt about that,” said Mrs Clark.
“There is a tremendous need for one in the city of Lincoln.
“It isn’t the biggest city in the country but it is still easily big enough to have its own prison.
“It doesn’t just house prisoners from Lincoln but also north Nottinghamshire and Boston.
“The building and service itself is an essential part of the community and we cannot do without it.
“It would be a crushing blow for the local people who are already used to hearing about big job losses.
“And that’s not just here but all over the country.
“Not only will hundreds of jobs go, but the 10 or so volunteers at Prison Fellowship will be deeply saddened by the news.
“On top of that, the local connection for inmates and their families will be completely lost.
“I worked in Lincoln Prison for years. It was really well managed and it deserves a better future than this.”