MP calls for action on jail absconding

A SUFFOLK MP is continuing to press the government for action to cut the number of absconders from one of the county's jails.

Richard Cornwell

A SUFFOLK MP is continuing to press the government for action to cut the number of absconders from one of the county's jails.

John Gummer is becoming increasingly concerned at the number of inmates who have escaped from Hollesley Bay prison - and by the types of offenders who are being sent there.

He says many of them are “unsuitable” for an open prison, highlighted by the fact that so many go on the run.

Last week Michael Fitzpatrick, 29, failed to return following a temporary release licence - the eighth absconder so far this year - but he has now been returned to the prison after being recaptured by the Metropolitan police in the Holborn area of London.

Mr Gummer submitted a written parliamentary question asking the government what steps were being taken to reduce the number of absconders.

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David Hanson, minister of state at the Ministry of Justice, said the number of inmates absconding was less than half the level of ten years ago.

“Every effort is made to keep absconds to a minimum,” he said.

“Records show that both the National Offender Management Service in general, and Hollesley Bay individually, are succeeding in these efforts, and that given the high occupancy rate this demonstrates, that protecting the public is the main priority of all prisons, especially open establishments.”

He said in the past five years 124 prisoners had escaped from Hollesley. In 2004, there were 36 compared with 19 last year.

Nationally, there were 1,310 in 2004 compared with 513 in 2007.

Figures obtained earlier by Mr Gummer showed those who abscond spend more time on the run than a few years ago - an average of 67 days - and more than a dozen have never been recaptured.

Of those who had got out in the past five years, 14 were serving time for violence-related crime - mostly assault, but also manslaughter, threatening behaviour and threats to kill - plus 28 for burglary, 19 for drugs offences, and 24 for robbery.

Mr Gummer feels many of these prisoners should not be in an open prison and says he is “trying to unravel the truth about what is happening at Hollesley Bay and what the government is doing about it.”

He added: “If the kind of people being sent to Hollesley Bay are people who ought to be in an open prison you would expect the absconder rates to be nothing like as high as they are.

“It is reasonable to think that the people they are sending to Hollesley Bay are people they wouldn't have sent in the past because they are not able to find enough space for prisoners in our jails.”

- Is enough done to prevent prisoners leaving Hollesley Bay? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail