Overcrowding leads to jail crisis

OVERCROWDING in Britain's jails has led to offenders not suitable for open prisons being sent to Hollesley Bay, it was revealed today.Prisons inspectors said the jail is dealing with "increasing numbers" of "more demanding" inmates who would normally be sent to more secure units.

OVERCROWDING in Britain's jails has led to offenders not suitable for open prisons being sent to Hollesley Bay, it was revealed today.

Prisons inspectors said the jail is dealing with "increasing numbers" of "more demanding" inmates who would normally be sent to more secure units.

But they have not released details of the types of offenders now being dealt with at the category D jail – though there has been growing concern over the large numbers of offenders who have absconded over the past two years.

The Evening Star has highlighted the cases of prisoners who have walked out, escaped or not returned from permitted absences.

Nine have absconded since April. The latest was Steven Hostettler last week, serving time for possessing offensive weapons.

But it is not known if those who go missing are prisoners who should be at an open prison or not.

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Today the Home Office released a new report on Hollesley Bay – which can hold up to 329 inmates – highlighting its strengths and weaknesses, and outlining action being taken to deal with some of its problems.

The report called the jail a prison at the crossroads – facing major changes, especially the loss of its 1,500-acre farm and the different types of inmates it was now handling.

HMI Chief Inspector of Prisons, Anne Owers said the open prison is dealing with increasing numbers of prisoners who would not previously have been considered suitable for open conditions.

"The governor and his staff have begun to rise to these and other challenges, but this inspection illustrated that continued progress is required to ensure Hollesley Bay forges a strong new identity for itself as a modern open prison effectively resettling its prisoners," she said.

Inspectors found the prison was generally safe and was adjusting to the increased diversity of its prisoners with good procedures for reception and induction procedures, suicide and self-harm and anti-bullying.

But the report also found areas of concern.

A particular weakness was that the security department was shared with the juvenile establishment, Warren Hill. This made it more difficult to develop appropriate security measures for the more challenging population now being received – for example in identifying subtle forms of bullying, better training for night patrols and improved searching and drug testing facilities.

Ms Owers said there were some excellent examples of individual and respectful care being shown to prisoners by staff at Hollesley Bay.

"However, inspectors were concerned that some staff on the residential units were too distant and failed to interact in the way that should be expected in a category D establishment," she said.

Religious provision and healthcare was good, skills training and work placements to help resettlement of a high quality, but legal services and attention to the needs of foreign nationals were almost non-existent, race relations work needed improving, and the food was vociferously criticised by prisoners.

"We found Hollesley Bay to be a prison facing up to a number of serious challenges. Its unique history and local situation required a new sense of direction, with an increased focus on resettlement, as well as the need to deal with more demanding prisoners. There was still clearly much to do, but the governor and his staff had begun to rise to the task," she added.

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

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