Political News Updates



Richard Burden: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many hours per week were spent in cells by prisoners by (a) per week day and (b) per weekend day by security category of prisoner, in each of the last three years. [200832]

Jeremy Wright: The information requested is not available centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Mr Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what average time was left to be served on a sentence for prisoners serving (a) determinate, (b) indeterminate, (c) life and (d) all sentences moved from closed to open conditions within the prison estate in each year since 2010. [200961]

Jeremy Wright: We do not centrally hold data on the number of prisoners transferred from closed to open prisons for the time period requested—or the type of sentence which they were serving. Consequently, the information requested could be obtained only at disproportionate cost, as it would involve a manual trawl through the records of every prisoner who has formed part of the prison population since 2010 to identify if they had/have ever been held in open conditions during the time period requested.

Determinate sentence prisoners should not generally be moved to open prison if they have more than two years to serve to their earliest release date, unless assessment of a prisoner’s individual risks and needs support earlier categorisation to open conditions. Such cases must have the reasons for their categorisation fully documented and confirmed in writing by the Governing Governor.
Indeterminate sentence prisoners do not have fixed release dates, so even if the data on transfers was readily available, it would not be possible to identify a length of time left to be served in these cases.
Depending on the length of tariff and the risk they pose, indeterminate sentenced prisoners (ISPs—both those serving life and IPP sentences) move through their sentence via a series of progressive transfers into lower security establishments in the closed estate and then usually into open conditions. ISPs may be considered for transfer to open conditions up to three years before the expiry of their minimum tariff. The decision to transfer ISPs to open conditions is a categorisation decision which is a matter for the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State may take this decision after seeking advice from the Parole Board—or without seeking advice from the Board, where the prisoners demonstrate exceptional progress.
Placing a prisoner in open conditions serves two main purposes. Firstly, it facilitates the eventual resettlement of prisoners into the community, in conditions more similar to those that they will face in the community than closed conditions can provide. Secondly, it allows for risk to be assessed in order to inform release decisions and, should the prisoner secure release, to inform risk management plans for ongoing supervision in the community. Thus, for many prisoners who have spent a considerable amount of time in custody, this can assist in their successful reintegration in the community and help protect the public. To release these prisoners directly from a closed prison without the resettlement benefits of the open estate could lead to higher levels of post-release reoffending.

Keeping the public safe is our priority. That is why this Government has taken action on both releases on temporary licence (ROTL) and absconds from prison. We commissioned a fundamental review of ROTL policy and practice last year and, in March, announced a package of measures to ensure that the public was properly protected. We have brought forward some of those measures so that they begin to take effect immediately, particularly with more serious offenders where the review concluded that an enhanced risk assessment approach should be taken.

The public have understandable concerns about the failure of some prisoners to return from temporary release from open prison. Keeping the public safe is our priority and we will not allow the actions of a small minority of offenders to undermine public confidence in the prison system. The number of temporary release failures remains very low—less than one failure in every 1,000 releases and about five in every 100,000 releases involving alleged offending—but we take each and every incident seriously. The Government has already ordered immediate changes to tighten up the system as a matter of urgency. With immediate effect, prisoners will no longer be transferred to open conditions if they have previously absconded from open prisons, or if they have failed to return or reoffended while released on temporary licence.