Prison chiefs defend jail's record

PRISON chiefs last night defended a Suffolk jail after it emerged it had missed its target for curbing the number of inmates who go on the run.The annual Prison Service report, outlining how each jail performed in 2003/04, was released yesterday - and stated Hollesley Bay open prison, near Woodbridge, had not kept the number of absconders down to targeted levels.

By Danielle Nuttall

PRISON chiefs last night defended a Suffolk jail after it emerged it had missed its target for curbing the number of inmates who go on the run.

The annual Prison Service report, outlining how each jail performed in 2003/04, was released yesterday - and stated Hollesley Bay open prison, near Woodbridge, had not kept the number of absconders down to targeted levels.

The news came as it was revealed two more prisoners from the open jail had gone on the run.


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James Melville, 25, and Jay Jenkins, 30, who were both serving sentences for burglary, went missing on Saturday afternoon.

But last night, a prison service spokeswoman stressed Hollesley - which arranges temporary releases for inmates to work in the community, go to college or to see family - still had a good record.

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She said: “The male open prison, HMP Hollesley Bay met its purposeful activity target but did not meet its abscond target. However, the establishment performance remains one of the best in the open estate.

“Most people who abscond are recaptured very quickly and 99.94% of people out on licence return so it is successful in that regard.”

The jail had planned to keep prisoners who abscond down to 19 last year. The prison service was unable to say by how many it missed the mark.

Angry Hollesley residents, some of whom have had vehicles stolen and suffered vandalism by inmates on the run, have previously branded the jail a “holiday camp”.

Earlier this year, they told of their concern at the rise in the number of absconds and demanded tighter controls to ensure inmates selected for the open unit were at no risk of reoffending.

Suffolk Coastal Conservative MP John Gummer had also called for a probe into the rate of absconds.

But there was good news for Hollesley too in the report, with it easily meeting all its educational targets.

The Prison Service performance indicators also revealed Edmunds Hill prison, Highpoint Prison and Hollesley, all in Suffolk, all missed their targets for the percentage of positive mandatory drugs tests.

At Edmunds Hill, figures show a total of 21.8% of prisoners tested for drugs were positive against a target of 11%.

Highpoint missed its target of 15% with a level of 20.2% as did Hollesley, which recorded 16.2% against a target of 14%.

But prison bosses said the eastern area had performed consistently well across a range of other disciplines including education, resettlement and the delivery of offending behaviour programmes.

HMP Wayland achieved good results across the board in exceeding its targets for delivery of offending behaviour programmes, sex offender treatment programmes, basic skills and key work skills, qualifications and resettlement outcomes.

It also had a very low staff sickness while Blundeston, Norwich and Chelmsford experienced high staff sickness during the year.

Danny McAllister, HM Prison Service area manager for the Eastern region said: “Overall I am pleased that this year's figures demonstrate a very solid performance from prisons in the eastern area.

“The majority of our prisons continue to deliver well against Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) across the board.

“Greater senior management focus on meeting KPIs, in particular in managing staff attendance, policing the regime to meet purposeful activity and time out of cell targets, and in improving local data capture for resettlement and education targets, have made a positive impact on these important targets during the first quarter of 2004/05.

“In order to tackle high Mandatory Drug Test rates, greater use is being made of intelligence and passive/active dogs in an effort to combat the traffic of drugs into establishments.

“These measures, combined with capital investment and improved provision of drug treatment and detoxification services throughout eastern area are already having a positive effect on this target.”

n Police are appealing for anyone with information on the latest Hollesley absconders to contact them.

James Melville is described as white, 5ft11ins tall, with dark hair and a tattoo on his left wrist. He has connections to the Norwich area.

Jay Jenkins is described as white, 5ft10ins tall, of slight build, with brown hair and a tattoo of a scarecrow on his right shoulder. He has connections to the Great Yarmouth area.

Police are advising anyone spotting Melville or Jenkins not to approach them but to alert officers immediately using 999.

Anyone who might have seen them, or who may have information about their whereabouts, should call Suffolk police on 01473 613500.

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