Suffolk: Ex-prisoner lifts lid on Hollesley Bay open prison

IN IT by Jonathan Robinson

IN IT by Jonathan Robinson - Credit: Archant

A FORMER Hollesley Bay prisoner has lifted the lid off the open prison to expose what he claims is a broken system with demoralised staff leaving inmates no hope of rehabilitation.

Jonathan Robinson was jailed for 18 months in 2011 for stealing from his employer.

He described the current system in prisons as a “shambles” and has turned a diary he kept of his time inside into an e-book entitled In It, which was published today.

The 48-year-old – who admits he fully deserved his sentence and believes he should have been imprisoned for longer – is calling for reforms of a prison system which he believes just “warehouse” inmates.

Mr Robinson said during his time in Hollesley Bay prison staff seemed more interested in playing computer games, making personal telephone calls, reading newspapers and eating crisps, rather than helping prepare inmates for making a positive contribution to society on release.

The former helicopter pilot claims on one occasion he was prevented from teaching an illiterate prisoner to read and write for no apparent reason.

In his book Mr Robinson also refers to a conversation with a prison officer which criticises the way the jail is run.

Most Read

He is currently lobbying Justice Secretary Chris Grayling and others in positions of power to change the system so prisoners can be given a better chance of rehabilitation, as well as punishment.

Mr Robinson said: “If I had a camera I would have loved to have made a non-stop documentary of every minute.

“My feedback has been it is no wonder that the system is such a shambles. We have got a whole bunch of warehousing going on.

“The majority of staff I experienced seemed far more interested in reading tabloid newspapers, eating crisps, and playing computer games. One officer I noticed would be on the phone every morning.

“There seemed very little passion within staff. There is an officer I quoted in my book who talks about dreadful morale from both the staff and prisoners.

“There are some prisoners who possible have great potential and, with some leadership could in my view make their lives turnaround.

“Not a lot is being done within prisons to nurture that potential. What a waste of opportunity.”

In response to Mr Robinson’s points Dean Acaster of the Prison Officers Association said: “I can understand staff being demoralised. They are facing some extremely difficult circumstances at the moment. You couple that with the cuts taking place within the system and what they have to face in relation to violence.

“They are considered as second class and you are just left with getting on with it.

“It’s extremely difficult. Staff do a remarkable job with the resources they have.

“99.9% of prison officers are genuinely caring people who want to make a difference.

“They need to be empowered and given the resources to make that difference.

“We have got nothing to hide. The POA have been calling for debates on, and an overhaul of, the prison system.”

A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said: “The government remains committed to making prisons places of hard work and activity giving offenders the opportunity to turn away from crime and live purposeful and productive lives.”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter