Hollesley: Open jail faces criticism over rehabilitation of offenders as ex-inmate gives evidence before Justice Select Committee
- Credit: Archant
Hollesley Bay open prison’s attitude towards rehabilitating criminals is likely to come under fire today before a powerful parliamentary committee.
The Justice Select Committee was scheduled to hear evidence from a former inmate who has criticised the standard of education offered to illiterate or barely literate prisoners at the jail.
Jonathan Robinson has written two books – In It and On It – which lift the veil on what he says were the obstacles preventing tutoring inside Hollesley Bay during his time there.
The prison diaries also outlined what was claimed to be a culture of apathy among many prison staff and inmates, who were left to stagnate instead of being prepared for their re-introduction to society.
Mr Robinson spent the majority of a 15-month theft sentence at the Suffolk jail after stealing from his employer in 2011. The former helicopter pilot’s time inside and his intense frustration at being unable to mentor other prisoners have subsequently seen him become a strident advocate for prison reform.
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Mr Robinson’s interview was due to be part of the Justice Select Committee’s televised session for its inquiry entitled ‘Prisons: Planning and Policies’.
The committee, headed by Liberal Democrat MP Sir Alan Beith, was appointed by the House of Commons to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the Ministry of Justice and associated public bodies.
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Last night Mr Robinson said: “England and Wales has the highest reoffending rates in Europe. Having justifiably been at the coalface and having had my eyes more than opened as to what changes need to urgently take place, I am grateful for the opportunity to give evidence to the Justice Select Committee.
“Witnesses give evidence under the same system as Parliamentary privilege, so I shall have free rein to reveal exactly what happened – or didn’t – at HMP Hollesley Bay.
“There is a pressing need to raise standards of education provision in prison. Many prisoners reoffend because they have very poor self-esteem and lack of skills needed to get employment. At the base level, many cannot read or write proficiently which means they struggle to even write a job application form.
“Education is at the heart of ensuring ex-prisoners can integrate in society when they leave and crucially reduce levels of reoffending.”
Over the past three years, Mr Robinson has had meetings with the Ministry of Justice and shadow ministers, as well as a director of a leading education provider at Hollesley Bay prison.
He has also mentored serving and former prisoners with their rehabilitation.
A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “We do not comment on individual prisoners. We are fully committed to rehabilitation through education and have rolled out schemes such as the Shannon Trust National Reading Network, which includes peer mentoring to improve reading levels.”
The Justice Committee’s session was televised on www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Live.aspx.
A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “We do not comment on individual prisoners.
“We are fully committed to rehabilitation through education and have rolled out schemes such as the Shannon Trust National Reading Network, which includes peer mentoring to improve reading levels.”