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Life of leisure claim for prisoners

PUBLISHED: 19:47 24 April 2004 | UPDATED: 04:49 02 March 2010

ANGRY prison officers are today claiming the Prison Service has wasted thousands of pounds on giving young criminals a "life of leisure".

Land yachting, stunt kites, fishing, indoor climbing, electric car racing, and petrol powered remote controlled cars feature on the list of activities available to inmates at Warren Hill closed prison, Hollesley, near Woodbridge.

ANGRY prison officers are today claiming the Prison Service has wasted thousands of pounds on giving young criminals a "life of leisure".

Land yachting, stunt kites, fishing, indoor climbing, electric car racing, and petrol powered remote controlled cars feature on the list of activities available to inmates at Warren Hill closed prison, Hollesley, near Woodbridge.

Two go-karts worth £4,000 have been ordered and at Carlford Unit, a specialist unit for teenagers serving the equivalent of a life sentence, there is going to be nearly one computer games console for every inmate.

Easter was marked at the prison with a chocolate Buttons egg for the inmates, aged 15 to 18. And then a select few from Warren Hill and Carlford were taken on a Duke of Edinburgh award scheme on a barge in the Midlands, returning yesterday.

This was the first time a barge trip had taken place. A similar excursion was cancelled last year.

It costs more than £36,000 a year of taxpayers' money to look after each inmate at the prison and staff warned they were concerned that the spending of thousands of pounds on play equipment, that would be envied by members of the public, was not appropriate.

One prison officer said: "I would say they are leading a life of leisure without a doubt."

But Stuart Robinson, governor, denied that the Prison Service had wasted money and he said those claims were a "load of rubbish."

He said at the end of the financial year they were tidying up budgets and they needed to spend money on refurbishment of worn-out equipment.

Mr Robinson said: "We are trying to meet criticisms by the Inspectorate that they did not get out in the fresh air.

"We have to occupy them constructively. We can not just have them sat outside, lazing around, unless you want trouble and them to diminish rather than grow.

"We have to look at how they can be made interested and active members of society when they go out. We are not incarcerating, we are a training institution.

"The climbing wall is brilliant. It is part of gym activity, part of team development and personal attainment, and issues of confidence."

Up to £25,000 has been spent on the indoor climbing wall at Carlford Unit and this means the prisoners no longer have to use a public facility at Stowmarket. There are three land yachts at Warren Hill, waiting to be used on the sports field when the education service has holidays.

More than £1,000 has been spent on fishing gear - the inmates fish at freshwater clubs - and about £1,200 has paid for enough scalextric track to build all the Formula one circuits. More DVD and video players have been bought.

One officer said: "We find it disgusting that this kind of money is being spent. It is out of order."

A report by Anne Owers, Chief Inspector of Prisons, last year criticised the lack of outdoor activities. Some inmates at Carlford, "had not been outside in the fresh air for several weeks and, in one case, three months." The inmates had tried building a small pond and working in a greenhouse but the projects stopped.

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