Inmates warn over open prison rules


Unsuitable offenders are being sent to open prisons, leading to disturbances like at Ford Open Prison

Unsuitable offenders are being sent to open prisons, leading to disturbances including a recent jail riot, other inmates have warned.

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live on contraband mobile phones, prisoners said rules had been relaxed allowing short-term and unsuitable criminals to spend the last part of their sentence at centres such as HMP Ford in West Sussex.

The open prison was the site of a rampage on New Year’s Day, with inmates smashing windows and starting fires at the complex. It is thought the violence started after guards attempted to breathalyse prisoners for contraband alcohol.

But on Radio 5, other offenders currently serving time said the underlying cause was the ease with which some prisoners were getting Category D classification.

The “low risk” status allows them to finish their sentences in open prisons.

One prisoner said: “I can remember many years ago it was difficult to get a Category D and go to an open prison.

“Now they seem to be doing it to anyone, including violent offenders. They’re not so strict.”

An open prison inmate said: “The problem is that when shorter term prisoners come here they don’t have anything to lose really, and start to erupt.”

Mark Freeman, acting secretary general of the Prison Officers Association, told Radio 5 Live: “People on three to four month sentences spend a week in a Category B jail and then are down in an open prison for the rest of their sentence.

“They’re only in proper jails a week, so it’s not hard to keep your nose clean a week. These people should not be in open prisons.”

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