Decision on prison farm due in months

A LONG-awaited decision on the future of a 1500-acre prison farm in Suffolk will be made within three months after it has been inspected.The Prison Service was criticised for allowing the farm at Hollesley Bay and Warren Hill prisons, near Woodbridge, to suffer while ministers weighed up its future.

A LONG-awaited decision on the future of a 1500-acre prison farm in Suffolk will be made within three months after it has been inspected.

The Prison Service was criticised for allowing the farm at Hollesley Bay and Warren Hill prisons, near Woodbridge, to suffer while ministers weighed up its future.

A Prison Service spokesman revealed that the farm will be evaluated on April 8 and 9 with a decision expected in June.

The annual report released this week by the Board of Visitors for the two prisons criticises the Government for the delay in releasing information on the national review of prison farms.

The farm at Hollesley provides fresh milk and vegetables for the Prison Service and work for some of the inmates. Its future has been clouded in uncertainty for several years.

The report said: "The farm, whose value the Prison Service now regards as irrelevant, is suffering from indecision and is nothing to be proud of. The report on farms in the Prison Estate is now with ministers awaiting their decision. We cannot understand the delay or why we have not been allowed to see the report."

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A Prison Service spokesman said the national review had now been widened to look at individual prisons. "On April 8 and 9 they will come to Hollesley to carry out this evaluation which will form the business case. They need to look at all the farms and possible future uses. Clearly it is a complex matter and ministers have to weigh up all the options. The ministers will reply in due course to the Board," he said.

The report, which covered the 12 months ending last September, was also critical of the state of the kitchens and the poor quantity of food for juveniles.

However, Stuart Robinson, Warren Hill governor, said the kitchen did not require much investment and there was an ongoing programme of maintenance.

"A survey by the Prison Service's Central Foods Services section indicated that in terms of calorific value and the vitamin content we are well over the measures required but we are still looking for the juveniles, because they are still developing youngsters, to enhance their food rations slightly with extra milk and fruit juice," said Mr Robinson.

Youngsters at Warren Hill eat in their cells and in common with other closed prisons they are now given pre-packed breakfasts with UHT milk. The Board said: "The recently introduced breakfast packs are pathetic. The Board also decries the withdrawal of fresh milk, produced on the farm at Hollesley Bay, and the substitution of more expensive and less palatable UHT milk imported from abroad."

Marian Lanyon, Board chairman, praised staff at Warren Hill for making substantial progress after the prison split from the open prison last May.

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