Sunday, April 01, 2007

The Even Greater Escape

North Thanet`s MP, Roger Gale, has described as "no April Fool's joke" a Home Office answer to a parliamentary question that indicates that Open Prisons are, effectively, "walk-free" establishments.

In a written question the MP asked for details of the number of convicts that have absconded from Kent's Open Prison, Standford Hill on the Isle of Sheppey.

The written response from Home Office Minister Gerry Sutcliffe reveals that a total of 606 have not returned too their cells for roll call since central records were first collected in 1995/6, with 32 of that number absconding during the past year.

"What is more worrying is that the Home Office does not appear to have any system for collating recapture data - so they don't know how many "absentees" have been returned to complete their sentences, how many are still missing or where they are! A Home Office spokesman is quoted as saying that: "The nature of open prisons means that we cannot guarantee that prisoners won't abscond", which is scarcely reassuring and one has to assume that if this is the attitude taken to free-range prisoners in Kent then it is almost certainly the attitude taken nationwide."

If convicted criminals are not going to serve their sentences as ordered by the court then there seems small point in arresting and sentencing them in the first place!

The phrase "not fit for purpose" springs to mind again!"


Doctor Doom said...

One would hope that, as a rule, offenders who are in any Open Prison are either at the end of their sentences and / or have been deemed no particular risk to society, and are being given the chance to prove themselves worthy of the relative freedom of low-security detention in preparation for release.

Courts pass sentences based on time to serve, allowing for remand, remission, etc, but are not there to make judgements about which jail a convicted offender should be sent to. It’s a safe bet any Open Prison inmates who do take advantage of their prison-without-walls will be more severely sentenced if and when eventually taken back before the Courts. But the vast majority of Open Prison inmates serve their sentence properly and hopefully leave in some small way rehabilitated.

At the end of the day, any decent society needs prison detention to operate at many different levels to reflect many different types and levels of seriousness of crime.

While the current situation of jailing or not jailing offenders according the number of places available if farcical, still we need to examine more thoughtfully just what our jails are for.

“Tough on crime, Tough on the causes of crime” was one of Tony Blair’s most incisive pre-election observations. A shame it was never followed through.

Anonymous said...

It may not be an 'April Fools' joke but Open Prisons are clearly a joke! Presumably our Home Secretary is happy with the situation as each absconder immediately helps to solve the prison over-crowding crisis that various Labour Home Secretaries have themselves created. Did they not recently sell off a Prison ship? What an ersatz Britain has been created by Blair and his incompetent cronies; "lets pretend we are tough on crime (the voters love that) and send people to 'pretend' prisons" or "lets fake a reason for war and send our Army and Navy off to fight without adequate air cover" or "lets show we care about poverty by increasing taxes on the poor"....the list of incompetent Govt is endless!