Lancashire

HMP Kirkham: Hundreds of inmates 'wrongly' sent to open prison

HMP Kirkham Image copyright Google
Image caption The number of absconds at HMP Kirkham has fallen, says the Ministry of Justice

Hundreds of inmates were wrongly sent to an open prison in Lancashire when they should have been in more secure jails, the prison officers' union says.

It follows figures showing HMP Kirkham had the joint highest number of prisoners absconding from custody last year.

The Prison Officers Association (POA) blamed prison overcrowding and called for tougher assessments of inmates.

Prisoner absconds from Kirkham had fallen, said the Ministry of Justice.

Mick Pimblett from the POA said: "There were 250 to 300 prisoners in Kirkham transferred back to closed [prisons] last year because they were inappropriately allocated there."

He said they were sent back to more secure prisons for a variety of reasons including involvement in crime, drug offences or failure to comply with the conditions of their licence.

He blamed overcrowding at other prisons for unsuitable prisoners being sent to open prisons, as well as low staffing levels at category D Kirkham for the high number of absconds, and called for tougher risk assessments of inmates when considering them for open prisons.

He said the vast majority of prisoners housed in Kirkham "present a very, very low risk" to the public but added: "There are some dangerous prisoners in there who, if they are allocated incorrectly, could cause problems".

It comes as two more inmates absconded from the prison on Saturday.

The Ministry of Justice said: "The number of absconds from open prison has fallen by two-thirds in the last decade but we work closely with the police to recapture absconders and they face a return to tougher, closed conditions when caught."

A spokeswoman for the Prison Service added: "Offenders are only moved to open conditions if they have passed a thorough risk-assessment and any suggestion that the process is not being followed is wholly incorrect."

HMP Kirkham was criticised in May by inspectors who said inmates found it "easy" to smuggle drugs into the jail after work or day release

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