Open Prisons

Ministry of Justice written question – answered on 15th October 2020.

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Photo of Sarah Champion Sarah Champion Chair, International Development Committee, Chair, International Development Committee

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, which agency makes the decision to transfer an offender to an open prison; what consultation takes place with (a) other agencies and (b) victims prior to that decision; and what risk assessments are undertaken on the effect of that transfer.

Photo of Lucy Frazer Lucy Frazer The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

The decision as to whether to transfer a prisoner to open conditions is a categorisation one for the Secretary of State, taken by officials under approved delegated authority on his behalf. Access to open prison conditions is not a right or an automatic progression but is based on a detailed assessment of risk.

In the case of indeterminate sentence prisoners, the decision to approve a prisoner for transfer to open conditions is generally taken in response to a recommendation from the independent Parole Board. Before making such a recommendation, the Parole Board will undertake a full and thorough risk assessment. As part of the risk assessment, the Parole Board will consider a number of detailed reports prepared by qualified probation and prison staff, who will in their reports in turn take account of any other agencies involved in the case under the statutory Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements.

As there is such a comprehensive assessment of the prisoner’s risk, officials will accept a recommendation from the Parole Board, except where the recommendation goes against the recommendations of the report writers without explaining why or is based on inaccurate information. A recommendation may also be rejected if the Secretary of State considers that there is not a wholly persuasive case for transferring the prisoner to open conditions at the current time.

In the case of determinate sentenced prisoners, only those prisoners who are assessed as low risk and are within three years of their earliest date of release may generally be considered for open conditions. Prisoners are assessed at the appropriate time by the prison in which they are located.

Victims who have elected to receive the Probation Victim Contact Scheme are entitled to be told when a prisoner is being considered for open conditions and the outcome.

This ensures that, once a prisoner is in an open prison, victims may make requests about licence conditions if the offender is considered for release on temporary licence.

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