Community demands answers to its 'grave concerns' over sex offenders in open prison
PUBLISHED: 11:59 24 August 2018 | UPDATED: 12:03 24 August 2018
Prison chiefs have been asked to publicly address “grave” concerns over proposals to house sex offenders in a Suffolk open institution.
An open letter, written on behalf of the Wilford Peninsula community, urges Hollesley Bay open prison governor Declan Moore and his representatives to attend a public meeting about the controversial changes.
Hollesley was confirmed this month to be among several open institutions where the Prison Service intends to accommodate growing numbers of sex offenders in the criminal justice system. Despite assurances offenders would be “suitably risk assessed”, the proposals have prompted a major backlash.
Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore and Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey have both highlighted concerns – and this week a petition was launched opposing the changes.
The latest open letter, written by Hollesley parish clerk Judi Hallett, says the community is “gravely concerned” about the decision “made without consultation or notice”.
“We invite you and your representatives to a meeting at Hollesley Village Hall as soon in September as possible, to hear local concerns,” it adds.
The letter raises 11 questions for the prison service to answer at the meeting, relating to how the decision was made, the consultation that took place, and what risks were identified. Mr Moore is also asked to explain whether the proximity of a primary school, and the public road running through the prison grounds were taken into account.
“This is not an exhaustive list of questions and residents are likely to have additional substantive concerns which they will raise either themselves or through the parish council in due course,” the letter adds.
Meanwhile, Faith Spear, a former chairman of Hollesley’s independent monitoring board, who was terminated from the role after using a pseudonym to write an article calling for prison reform, has also raised concerns.
Ms Spear claimed the move breaks a “long-standing agreement” with the parish council that no sex offenders will be housed at the prison, said there was “no consultation” with the community and criticised the “total lack of communication”.
The former chairman also claims that, from January, up to 60% of the prison population at Hollesley will be sex offenders and highlighted concerns with the frequency of prisoners absconding.
The Prison Service said strict rules applied before temporary release is considered, 99% of such releases were completed successfully and any breaches were taken “extremely seriously”.
“We offer a range of programmes in prison to people convicted of sexual offences which assist them to address the issues in their lives that led to them offending in the first place,” a spokesman added.
“Sex offenders are already held successfully at other open prisons but their growing number means we need more of our open prisons to accommodate them, including HMP Hollesley Bay.”