To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, with reference to the Annual Report of the Independent Monitoring Board at HMP Onley, published on 20 July 2021, what assessment he has made of the adequacy of capacity in Category D prisons in London and the South-East; and what assessment he has made of the effect on the (a) rehabilitation and (b) resettlement of prisoners in custody a large distance away from their families.
In recent months we have taken a number of units out of use that no longer meet current fire safety standards. This has inevitably had an impact on the availability of category D (open) places in London and the South-East. In the short term, these reductions in places are being offset by installation of good-quality temporary units at a number of critical sites, while we plan for their replacement on a permanent basis.
We have committed more than £4 billion to make significant progress in delivering 18,000 additional prison places across England and Wales by the mid-2020s, and expansion of the category D estate is included in this. We are currently assessing which sites may be suitable for expansion.
Open prisons are classified as a national resource, meaning that some prisoners are held in open conditions outside of their immediate home region. However, open prisons have a successful track record of supporting prisoners realise their release plans despite the geographical distance from home that can affect some prisoners. All open prisons have established links with local employers to provide access to job opportunities while in custody through Release on Temporary Licence. Through collaboration with New Futures Network, there is also a national network of organisations that facilitate employment in custody and after release. In all cases, open prisons work to ensure that, where possible, the job can be retained on release. Alternatively, they may be released with transferrable skills that are to a recognised industry standard that would enable them to be employed in their home area.
We recognise that closeness to home is important for maintaining family ties, however given restraints in existing geography and infrastructure, we are not always able to hold prisoners close to home while having access to the right services or opportunities. The Model for Operational Delivery for Resettlement prisons covers resettlement for both Category C and Category D prisoners to ensure there is equality in service delivery regardless of where they are located within the estate. Onley is a training and resettlement prison and like other closed prisons is able to provide prisoners with a range of opportunities for rehabilitation and resettlement while they are waiting for an open prison place to become available.