March 1 2015 Latest news:
By Jonathan Barnes
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
PRISON bosses have moved to end the decades-old practice of sending inmates to work with horses as part of rehabilitation and education programmes.
Hundreds of prisoners at Hollesley Bay, near Woodbridge, have gained work skills on the neighbouring Suffolk Punch stud farm over the past 70 years.
But that practice, thought by many to have a calming influence on the inmates, has now been discontinued.
It represents a further split between the prison site and the world-famous farm, which was previously owned by the Prison Service and has now been turned into a visitor centre promoting the Suffolk Punch breed.
Both adult and youth prisoners have worked on the farm to gain work experience and qualifications since the 1930s, although in recent years only inmates from the youth Warren Hill jail had been sent there. The prison complex also houses an adult open prison.
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “YOI Warren Hill provides a number of opportunities for young offenders to gain qualifications and work experience.
“It has been decided that working on the stud farm will no longer be used to help young people gain qualifications.
“The prison will continue to provide a range of other qualifications and work experience to help young offenders get a job on their release. No staff have been made redundant as a result of the decision, but transferred to work in other parts of the prison.”
The Prison Service took on the farm with the running of the coastal site in 1938. But with changing times, it decided it was no longer essential and sold the farm – along with the largest herd of Suffolk Punch horses in the world – to the Suffolk Punch Trust in 2006. It is now a popular tourist attraction.
Inmates had continued to work at the farm, however, under the expert stewardship of head groom Bruce Smith, who has worked at the site for more than 30 years. Mr Smith is believed to be in talks with management about his role.