Suffolk: 29 killers working in our community on day release

SUFFOLK: A total of 70 Hollesley Bay prisoners serving life or indeterminate sentences – including 28 murderers – have been working in the community without the public’s knowledge, The Evening Star can today reveal.

It emerged the number of killers, burglars, attackers and arsonists, has more than doubled in a year according to figures from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), requested by the Star under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI).

Twice as many convicted murderers from the open prison are working in Suffolk than was the case a year ago, according to the new figures which reveal in 2009/10 14 murderers were allowed out on day release, compared to 28 in the same period last year.

In 2010/11 a total of 70 prisoners, including 38 serving life sentences and 32 serving indeterminate sentences for public protection (IPP) were allowed to work in the community as part of their rehabilitation and preparation for release. That number was up from 30 in 2009/10.

Suffolk Coastal MP Dr Therese Coffey welcomed the fact none of the prisoners had been arrested on suspicion of other offences while out working in the county.

She said it shows the system is working while highlighting the need to ease prisoners who had served long sentences back into the community.

The MoJ said in its response to the Star’s FOI request, the increase in the number of lifer and IPP prisoners allowed resettlement day release from Hollesley Bay reflects an “overall change in the population held at this open prison”.

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Until 2010 there was a backlog of long-term prisoners, cleared to be transferred to open prisons but unable to do so because their spaces were being filled by those serving shorter sentences.

The change of policy has seen more short-term prisoners serve their sentences at higher security prisons to allow for the rehabilitation of long-term prisoners at open prisons.

A spokesman for the MoJ said: “Steps have been taken to hold short sentenced prisoners in local and category C prisons and move those already cleared by the Parole Board to open conditions.

“As a result in the last 12 months there has been a significant increase in the number of lifer and IPP prisoners held at Hollesley Bay.”

Dr Coffey said it was vital that long-term prisoners should be eased back into society.

She said: “I am encouraged by the fact that none of the prisoners who have been allowed out on day-release have been involved in criminal activities.”

Dr Coffey pointed out that only a small number of the most serious criminals – like Ipswich serial killer Steve Wright – are serving a “whole-life” tariff, and most serving life sentences will be released at some stage.

Alison Fletcher, from Woodbridge, recognised the need to reintroduce prisoners back into society gradually.

She said: “As long as we know what they have been released for and it is properly managed and maintained, I think it’s a good thing.”

However one Ipswich resident, who did not wish to be named, said those serving life sentences should not be allowed to work in the community.

“I think it costs a lot of money to do it and as a taxpayer I don’t want my money going on them. If they’ve done something serious then they shouldn’t be allowed out.”

The figures relate to two 12-month periods – from November 2009 to October 2010 and then from November 2010 to October 2011.

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