Open Prisons

Ministry of Justice written question – answered on 30th July 2015.

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Photo of Philip Davies Philip Davies Conservative, Shipley

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, how many prisoners currently in open prisons have previously (a) absconded or failed to return to prison and (b) breached the conditions of their temporary licence.

Photo of Shailesh Vara Shailesh Vara The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

We have completely overhauled the processes for allowing prisoners out on temporary licence, leading to a 39% drop in the number of temporary release failures. This is the lowest failure rate since 2002, and the absconding rate has reached record lows under this and the Coalition government.

The reduction in the numbers of absconds and ROTL failures demonstrate that the action that has been taken to improve assessment procedures in this area has been effective. We continue to look for improvements.

Since May 2014, prisoners with a history of escape, absconding or serious temporary release failure during the current sentence are already prevented from transfer to open conditions, other than in the most exceptional circumstances. There has been only one case satisfying those conditions since the policy was implemented. When the policy was implemented, it was not applied retrospectively. Prisoners already in open conditions were assessed by NOMS and any who were assessed as presenting an unacceptable risk in such conditions in light of their previous non-compliance were returned to closed prisons, with the remainder allowed to remain in open conditions because of their compliance with the regime and favourable risk assessment.

On 31 March 2015, there were 4,023 prisoners recorded as being in open prisons. Of these, 17 were recorded as having absconded between 1 April 2004 and 30 May 2014 when the policy change was came into force. There were no other cases of prisoners in this group absconding between 31 May 2014 and 31 March 2015.

Reliable electronic records for absconds and temporary release failures prior to 2004 are not available, therefore only incidents since 2004 could be considered. The data set used here includes prisons classified as having their predominant function to be open. These figures have been drawn from administrative IT systems which, as with any large scale recording system, are subject to possible errors with data entry and processing.

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