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Open Prisons

Volume 501: debated on Wednesday 2 December 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice (1) how many prisoners convicted of murder are held in open prisons; (302249)

(2) how many prisoners serving life sentences are held in open prisons.

At the end of June 2009, the last date for which data is available, there were some 360 life prisoners, including 260 prisoners convicted of murder detained in exclusively open prisons in all the prison establishments in England and Wales.

Prisoners are assessed objectively in a process looking at all aspects of their offending behaviour, actions they have taken to reduce their likelihood of reoffending, and the risk they pose to the public. They are placed in the lowest security category consistent with their assessed risk. Only prisoners placed in the lowest security category (D) may be allocated open conditions.

Transfer of any prisoner to open conditions will only take place if continued detention in closed conditions is no longer necessary for the protection of the public. Open conditions allow prisoners to find work, re-establish family ties and reintegrate into the community. All these are essential components for successful resettlement and an important factor in protecting the public.

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, and have been rounded to the nearest 10.