‘Everyone is worried’ – Prison governor quizzed at packed meeting over controversial sex offender proposals
- Credit: Archant
The governor of a Suffolk open prison which is set to house sex offenders met last night with concerned members of the neighbouring community to fend questions and explain the controversial proposals.
Hollesley Bay’s Declan Moore faced at least 150 people who had packed the village hall to hear more about the widely opposed changes.
People living around the open prison have grown increasingly concerned about the prospect of rapists, paedophiles and abusers living in their midst – particularly as a primary school is just a few hundred yards away.
“Everyone is worried about the safety of their loved ones,” said one speaker at the meeting.
Mr Moore used the meeting to address some of the issues which had been raised with him via Hollesley Parish Council as well as questions from the audience.
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• National discussions about housing sex offenders in open prisons began around three years ago amid a massive increase in the number of sex offenders in the prison system - up 4,000 in the past eight years.
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• However, Mr Moore claimed to have had no say in the decision to accept sex offenders at Hollesley, and only heard about it a week before the public announcement.
• He admitted he would be leaving for a new job at Norwich Prison soon after the changes took effect.
• Mr Moore assured the audience that the Prison Service would have taken into account issues such as the proximity to the primary school, the public road running through the village, and the nearby houses, when making the decision.
• He sought to assure the community that sex offenders on release would not carry out similar crimes in the neighbouring area. “We have had murderers in Hollesley Bay for decades and thank the good lord none have practised their evil craft in the local community,” he said.
• Sex offenders would be brought into one section of the prison in a large group for “safety in numbers” against possible reprisals by fellow inmates.
• The view of prisoners to the prospect of sex offenders arriving was said to be “neutral”.
• The prison workers’ trade union’s response was said to be “positive”.
• Sex offenders being considered for a move to an open prison would have faced “intense scrutiny” from the parole board beforehand and an “incredibly in-depth” risk assessment. “We will risk assess the guy coming here to the nth degree,” he said.
• Prisoners reaching the end of their time at the open prison would not be released into Hollesley. “They do back from whence they came,” he said.
• Fewer sex offenders would carry out work at businesses and organisations in the local area, as Mr Moore acknowledged it would be difficult to find places prepared to host them, however they would be put to work in the grounds of the prison instead.
• Mr Moore insisted “we are a well funded, well staffed prison” in response to questions about how cuts could affect prisoner/staff ratios.
• He admitted that key people including Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore had not been consulted on the changes. “But neither was I,” he added.
Several audience members thanked Mr Moore for his time and for dispelling some of the rumours about the proposals.
Others, however, felt more needed to be done to resist the changes.
One woman pointed out that the community around Thorn Cross open prison in Cheshire had successfully opposed a similar proposal after thousands of people signed a petition. Others in the audience encouraged people to write to their MP Therese Coffey.
“Everyone has got to get involved if you want to try to alter the decision,” said one audience member.
For a full report visit our website over the weekend.