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Hollesley Bay: Open prison praised in independent report despite criticisms over escaped prisoners

PUBLISHED: 08:55 06 May 2014 | UPDATED: 11:39 06 May 2014

HM Prison Hollesley Bay.

HM Prison Hollesley Bay.

Archant

A Suffolk open prison facing scrutiny because a growing number of inmates have gone on the run has been praised for its improved performance in an independent report.

The Independent Monitoring Board described Hollesley Bay, near Woodbridge, as a “well-managed establishment” which provides a “safe, humane and decent environment” for prisoners in its annual report.

David Smith, chairman of the board, said the prison was meeting its target in equipping prisoners with the right tools to facilitate their progress in successfully integrating back in to society.

It comes after drugs, bullying and a prison population crisis were blamed for the number of Hollesley Bay inmates going on the run almost doubling in the past three years.

Last month, the EADT reported how 25 prisoners either absconded or did not return from approved leave in 2012/13, an increase from 13 in 2010/11.

The Ministry of Justice research prompted Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey to pledge to seek answers.

However, the independent report said: “The prison continues to be run in a professional and positive way, providing a range of opportunities for learning, training and work, with all prisoners engaging in purposeful activity unless excused for medical or age reasons.”

All 214 prisoners granted home leave at Christmas and during the New Year celebrations returned in line with their licence conditions, the report found.

“This demonstrates that prisoners are reasonably content with conditions at the prison, its safe and respectful nature and, perhaps, the excellent opportunities available to them at Hollesley Bay,” the report said.

It said 12 inmates absconded in the calendar year of 2013.

However, Mr Smith said that last year between 800 and 1,000 prisoners would have stayed at Hollesley Bay, which can hold up to 434 inmates.

“Twelve is still 12 more than one wishes, but it is down in the 1% region,” he said.

“I am not minimising it in any way. Absconding is wrong and is a crime. Those who feel they can just stroll around and think they will not be brought to justice feel the full force of the law upon them.

“My understanding is that almost all absconders are caught within a short space of time. They are charged and sent to a closed jail.”

The report found 797 prisoners out of 870 (92%) successfully completed an educational course, including bricklaying, plumbing, business enterprise, IT, mathematics and English.

There are also more than 100 placements for voluntary and paid work in the community for Hollesley Bay prisoners. Some obtained full or part-time work upon release following the Paid Working Out scheme.

Work including cleaning, general maintenance and driving is available to more than 300 prisoners each day, while “fine examples” of critical life-saving care was administered by prison staff and prisoners in a “number of instances”, the report said.

However, there were “hints” that bullying or related threats had prompted some prisoners to abscond, while concerns were raised over the incorrect deliveries of pharmacy supplies, a failure to properly utilise horticultural facilities and “unappetising baguettes” at lunch.

Mr Smith added: “We don’t just curl up and say everything is wonderful. We encourage them to make modest, small improvements. These are gauged when we visit almost every week and suggest changes.”

He urged anyone interested in becoming a member of the Independent Monitoring Board to call 01394 412435.

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