Prison gets tough on absconding

A TOUGH approach taken by officers is reducing the number of prisoners who want to run away from a Suffolk jail.The number of absconders from Hollesley Bay prison, near Woodbridge, has reduced significantly in the last few months after staff put in new measures.

By Richard Smith

A TOUGH approach taken by officers is reducing the number of prisoners who want to run away from a Suffolk jail.

The number of absconders from Hollesley Bay prison, near Woodbridge, has reduced significantly in the last few months after staff put in new measures.

The number of absconders had soared from eight in 2001-02 to 36 in 2003-04 - and this year the Prison Service set a maximum target of 48 absconders.


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But the latest figures, unveiled by the governor Ken Kan, show there have been 12 absconders since April 1 and he said he was hopeful the number would remain low until the end of the financial year on March 31.

The prison had been given the unwelcome tag of “holiday camp” by frustrated villagers who wanted tighter rules to ensure prisoners selected for the open unit did not re-offend after there were 81 absconds in a five-year period.

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The jail has imposed stricter controls to assess if an offender is suitable for an open prison, it regularly liaises with police officers and shares intelligence on inmates. Staff have cracked down on bullying and it tries to help inmates who have domestic problems.

Mr Kan said: “We have a better risk assessment and we are improving on that. We work closely with the police and if we have an undesirable person coming into the prison we quickly send them back to a closed prison.

“If for example there is a problem with drugs, then we get rid of the drug suppliers. If there are problems at home then we can arrange for a prisoner to get extra letters or visits, or if they do not have money to call their wife, we allow them to make a call.

“If the prisoners are content in here and not running away then it improves the culture. It makes it more positive, life is more stable and contented and they can get on with their object of addressing their needs.

“I think we are getting closer and closer to becoming a caring profession instead of being purely custodial as we were in the 1970s. We give them drug treatment, health care, life and work skills, help with mental health issues - I think we are doing more than in schools.”

The prison takes in criminals from East Anglia and London. It has a capacity for 330 prisoners but is currently holding between 240 and 250.

Thorn Cross, in Cheshire, an open prison with similar capacity to Hollesley Bay, had 69 absconders since April. Standford Hill in Kent, population 464, has had 40; Leyhill in Gloucester, population 512, has had 49, and Kirkham in Preston, population 570, has had 56.

richard.smith@eadt.co.uk

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