Ipswich to be made home for criminals

OFFENDERS are set to be housed in Ipswich as part of a controversial government bid to ease the prison overcrowding crisis, it can be revealed today.

OFFENDERS are set to be housed in Ipswich as part of a controversial government bid to ease the prison overcrowding crisis, it can be revealed today.

Under plans to reduce the number of people in Britain's jails, the Ministry of Justice has teamed up with a property company to buy a number of houses in Ipswich.

The properties will be used to house remand inmates who could be bailed if they had suitable accommodation, as well as those suitable for home detention.

It is estimated that between 8,000 and 12,000 people nationwide could be eligible for the scheme.

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A spokeswoman for The Ministry of Justice could not confirm how many people are likely to be housed in Ipswich.

She said the initiative, which began on Monday, is not connected to the recent government announcement about the possibility of prisoners being released on licence 18 days before the end of their sentence.

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The move has been slammed by Ipswich Borough councillor Steven Wells, responsible for housing, who claims residents and the council have been “kept in the dark” over the plans.

He said: “Exactly where are these properties going to be sited?

“What kind of risk assessment on the properties and the people being placed there are going to be carried out?

“Government needs to talk with us, the probation service and police about what they are actually proposing and the impact on the town.”

A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said the plans to buy properties to accommodate remand prisoners suitable for bail have been in place for some time.

She said: “The scheme is a response to surveys that identified a need from sentencers for additional bail accommodation for defendants who could otherwise be bailed if accommodation was made available.

“The accommodation, which will be developed between now and November, will allow the appropriate use of bail for low risk, adult defendants in custody who are currently unable to provide a bail address or who could not be bailed without support.

“The accommodation will also be available for those who could be released on Home Detention Curfew but are not, due to a lack of suitable accommodation.”

News of the scheme comes in the same week government announced that 25,000 or more prisoners serving less than four years could be released early on licence.

The prison population in England and Wales has risen steadily over the last eight years - from 64,530 in June 1999 to its current level of more than 81,000.

What do you think of the idea? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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