December 12 2013 Latest news:
Tuesday, September 3, 2013
Criminals in open prisons such Hollesley Bay could be forced to wear tags after a violent man absconded twice in a year.
Justice secretary Chris Grayling told the East Anglian Daily Times yesterday he was “very worried” by some of the cases he had seen recently and was “strongly minded” to track prisoners who were on temporary licence.
The move comes after strong pressure from this paper over several recent high profile prisoners fled from the jail near Woodbridge.
In July Mark Donnison went on the run from Hollesley Bay – the second time in a year he had absconded from an open jail. And in August Paul Flint, a convicted murderer, also fled an open prison for the second time after initially leaving Hollesley.
However, the tags would not apply to everyone in an open prison and those who left without permission would not be on a tag.
The move is likely to be part of a £2.94billion upgrade of the electronic tagging system, which will involve deploying radio frequency technology to roughly 25,000 offenders at any one time and is due to come in next year.
Currently prisoners who are released on temporary licence such as day release from an open prisoner are not tagged.
Mr Grayling, who is also the Lord Chancellor, said: “I am very worried by some of the cases we have seen recently and we are now reviewing the whole way the release on temporary license works.
“I am strongly minded to have a system where, when the new generation of tags come in, we are looking at the possibility of tagging people who are on temporary licence so we can track them where they go and where they have been.”
At the time of the Donnison case the Prison Officers’ Association (POA) said the case “beggared belief”, and claimed Donnison – who was eventually recaptured in the Christchurch Park area of Ipswich –should never have been at Hollesley.
The POA claimed it was symptomatic of the “inappropriate categorisation” of prisoners, suggesting it was fuelled by budget cuts. But Mr Grayling strongly denied this.
Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey said: “This is something that has merit but needs careful consideration.
“A tag would be able to track someone that absconds on short-term release but we need to ensure that it doesn’t prevent rehabilitation by being too overt.
“I am still trying to determine why in this particular case an offender with a history of absconding was placed in an open prison.”
Prisons minister Jeremy Wright declined to speak directly about the case at the time.