SR News investigation: Are Britain’s open prisons too open?


An investigation by SR News has found that 181 prisoners have absconded from open prisons throughout UK in 2015.

It has also emerged that more than one thousand have gone walkabouts from all the open prisons across the country.

Derbyshire’s HMP Sudbury alone had 36 prisoner escapes during 2014/15 and they have four out of the six still missing.

Since 2011 absconders have been on the increase there, rising from 21 across 2011/12, steadily climbing to 28 the year after then leaping into the thirties in 13/14 and and topping it off to 36 in 2015.

That number is now likely to be higher as a number of other inmates, including a convicted kidnapper, have absconded since SR News obtained these numbers.

We contacted Sudbury prison directly and the Ministry of Justice for a comment but neither would give a comment to a student media.

What are open prisons?

Open prisons, also known as category D prisons, have lower security than other prisons and are for those “who present a low risk” and “can be reasonably trusted in open conditions and for whom open conditions are appropriate”.

These category D estates are meant for those who are coming to the end of their sentence and need rehabilitating back into normal life. And it still provides security but not at the same levels as closed prisons.

This is a statement obtained from the Ministry of Justice: “These prisons also provide effective supervision for prisoners who do not require the security conditions of the closed estate, because they have been assessed as having a low risk of harm to the public and a low risk of absconding by the independent Parole Board and/or NOMS (National Offender Management Service).”

We contacted the councillors from the area around HMP Sudbury to ask how they felt living in an area where criminals, some white collar and some more high risk, are often aloud to work amongst them and even walk free. Unfortunately, they were not available for a comment.

The North East has eight prisons in the region, holding prisoners ranging from category D to A, including notorious prisoners like Ian Brady.

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