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Open Prisons: Rehabilitation

Justice written question – answered on 21st May 2008.

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Photo of Nick Herbert Nick Herbert Shadow Secretary of State (Justice)

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many prisoners in open jails did not complete relevant offender programmes in the closed prison estate in the most recent period for which figures are available.

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

This information is not available. It could be obtained only by going through the files of every prisoner held in the open estate in the last 12 months, to do so would be at disproportionate cost. Prior to allocation to an open prison, prisoners are assessed to ensure that the level of risk that they present can be safely managed in open conditions. The assessment will take account of a range of factors including participation in activities such as offending behaviour and treatment programmes where appropriate. The risk assessment process for open conditions is stringent—and becoming more sophisticated at assessing risk. As a result, abscond rates are falling: (financial years) 2003-04—1,310; 2004-05—877; 2005-06—709; 2006-07—555; 2007-08—561 (annualised projection). Over 95 per cent. of those who have absconded are returned to custody.

However, some programmes are also delivered in open prisons. There have been open prisons since 1936 and they are the most effective means of ensuring prisoners are tested in the community before they are released. To release prisoners directly from a closed prison without the resettlement benefits of the open estate would undoubtedly lead to higher levels of post-release re-offending.

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