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Prison Accommodation

Volume 501: debated on Wednesday 2 December 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what criteria are used to determine whether a prisoner is eligible to be held at open prison; and whether a conviction for premeditated murder is an automatic bar to being so held. (302248)

There is a well established categorisation and allocation system which aims to ensure that all prisoners are allocated to a prison with a security category consistent with managing their needs in terms of security and control. The categorisation process assesses the risks posed by individual prisoners in terms of: likelihood of escape or abscond; the risk of harm to the public in the event of an escape or abscond and any control issues that impact on the security of the prison and those within it. The risk assessment will take account of issues including: the nature and circumstances of the index offence, any previous convictions, positive and successful efforts to reduce identified risk levels.

Prisoners convicted of pre-meditated murder cannot be held in open prisons on their initial categorisation decision, but may be transferred to open prison conditions at a later stage as part of their sentence progression. Convicted murderers serving life sentences and other indeterminate sentence prisoners will be transferred from closed to open prison conditions only following the decisions of the independent Parole Board. Before making such a decision, the Parole Board must be satisfied that the case meets the criteria set out in the Directions to the Parole Board under section 32(6) of the Criminal Justice Act 1991.