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Open Prisons

Volume 506: debated on Monday 22 February 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice pursuant to the answer of 12 January 2010, Official Report, column 933W, on open prisons, how many prisoners convicted of murder were held in open prison in each of the last five years. (316497)

The following table gives figures for the numbers of prisoners serving sentences for murder held in open prisons in the years between 2005 and 2009:

Prisoners held in open prisons serving sentences for murder 2005-09

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

Total

350

310

260

270

275

Askham Grange

5

5

5

5

10

Ford

40

40

25

35

25

Hewell1

0

0

0

5

10

Hollesley Bay

20

10

15

15

20

Kirkham

25

25

25

30

30

Leyhill

85

75

60

55

50

Moorland Open

0

0

0

0

0

North Sea Camp

40

30

20

15

25

Prescoed

35

25

20

20

15

Spring Hill

20

20

15

15

15

Standford Hill

15

10

20

15

10

Sudbury

65

65

50

55

60

East Sutton Park

0

5

5

5

5

1 Hewell consists of three units; only the open unit has been counted.

Note:

Totals rounded to the nearest five; figures for June each year.

The total number of prisoners convicted of murder and in prison was around 4,900 at the end of June 2009. The figure in the open estate is therefore 5 per cent of. the total. There have been open prisons since 1936 and they are widely accepted as the most effective means of ensuring prisoners are tested in the community before they are released. To release prisoners directly from a closed prison without the resettlement benefits of the open estate would undoubtedly lead to higher levels of post-release reoffending.

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 to open conditions. If their behaviour becomes a cause for concern, they can be moved back to more secure conditions.

Prisoners convicted of murder serving life sentences and other indeterminate sentence prisoners will be transferred from closed to open prison conditions only following the acceptance of a Parole Board recommendation to the Secretary of State. Before making such a recommendation, 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, of which the risk of abscond is a central factor.

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. Totals for each prison have been rounded to the nearest five and the grand total to the nearest 10; separately rounded sub-totals may not add to the rounded total.

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.