HMP Askham Grange, near York, and HMP East Sutton Park in Kent will shut their doors “in due course” because there is no longer a requirement for dedicated women’s open prisons.
As part of Government reforms, female inmates will serve their sentences closer to home and be offered help to find work on their release.
Low-risk offenders will be encouraged to undertake practical training so they can seek employment following their jail term.
The changes, announced by Lord McNally, the minister for female offenders, will mean all women’s prisons become resettlement prisons so that women are close to home and are re-integrated into society.
Lord McNally said: “When a female offender walks out of the prison gates, I want to make sure she never returns. Keeping female prisoners as close as possible to their homes, and importantly their children, is vital if we are to help them break the pernicious cycle of re-offending.
“And providing at least a year of support in the community, alongside the means to find employment on release, will give them the best possible chance to live productive, law-abiding lives.”
The Ministry of Justice said it will test a “pioneering” new open unit at HMP Styal in Cheshire aimed at helping women into jobs on release, with the prospect of a commercially-run business at the prison that could provide training and employment for inmates.
In order to ensure there are enough prison places available for women, existing provision at HMP Eastwood Park and HMP Foston Hall will be refurbished and HMP Drake Hall will see modifications to some of its buildings.
Askham Grange, which has a capacity of 128, was built in 1886 and became the first open prison for women in 1947. It can also provide accommodation and care for up to 10 mothers and babies.