Hollesley Bay: Prison’s decision on Suffolk Punch farm causes dismay

A FORMER Chief Inspector of Prisons has criticised a Suffolk jail’s decision to stop inmates gaining qualifications on a neighbouring stud farm.

Prisoners from the complex at Hollesley Bay, near Woodbridge, have worked at the famous Suffolk Punch stud farm for more than 70 years.

But bosses at the prison have now decided to end the practice, saying it was no longer considered essential to help inmates gain qualifications.

The decision has been greeted with dismay by Lord Ramsbotham, who was Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons between 1985 and 1991.

“I am very sad that the Prison Service has decided to end this connection,” he said.

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“There is absolute proof – over the years – that working with horses has been the trigger that has inspired a number of prisoners to turn their lives around and become useful and law-abiding.

“The self-esteem that comes with doing something for someone else – animal or human – is an intangible that is vital to this process because it fuels the journey down a difficult and demanding road.

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“As Kenneth Clarke embarks on what he calls his Rehabilitation Revolution, designed to reduce re-offending, I find it particularly unfortunate that he is wilfully discarding a tool that could help him achieve his aim.

“The numbers involved may be few, but every one counts.”

The Prison Service took on the running of the farm – which has the largest herd of Suffolk Punch horses in the world – when it took on the site in 1938.

Over the years, hundreds of adults and juveniles have been sent to work on the farm to gain experience and qualifications.

The Prison Service sold the farm to the Suffolk Punch Trust in 2006 and it is now a popular visitor centre.

However, inmates from the Young Offenders’ Institute – the site also includes an adult open prison – had continued to be sent to work on the farm, learning skills under the stewardship of stud groom Bruce Smith, who has worked on the farm for 32 years.

Mr Smith is now believed to be in talks with management about his role.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “It has been decided that working on the stud farm will no longer be used to help young people gain qualifications.

“The prison will continue to provide a range of other qualifications and work experience to help young offenders get a job on their release.

“No staff have been made redundant as a result of the decision but transferred to work in other parts of the prison.”

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