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HMP Springhill sees increase in absconders

HMP Springhill sees increase in absconders

Published by the Mix96 News Team at 5:51am 10th April 2018.

More prisoners are escaping from a Buckinghamshire prison compared to a year ago.

HMP Spinghill is an open prison, holding over 300 men who've been serving longer sentences at more secure sites.

The idea is that inmates are given more responsibility, but this can backfire when they don't come back from day-release - something that's increased over the last year.

Inspectors want more focus on supporting these new arrivals, so that they don't end up with more time inside, instead.

They've also been checking up on improvements, both with the buildings themselves and how Springhill is run.

Absconds on the increase

HM Prison

HMP Spring Hill tests the readiness of prisoners for release, allowing them more freedom to make day-to-day decisions and opportunities for release on temporary licence (ROTL).

An inspection of the jail in 2014 found it was still affected by the impact of a tragedy in 2013 when a prisoner in the community on licence from Spring Hill committed a murder.

When inspectors returned in December 2017, said Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, Spring Hill had made progress in many areas, though there were still some important issues to address.

"The number of absconds had increased. An analysis by the prison showed that the majority of absconds involved indeterminate-sentenced prisoners (ISPs) who were fairly new to living in open conditions after having spent many years in closed conditions.

"Some action was being taken to address this but more needed to be done to ensure these men were more supported during their first few months, to help them settle in and live confidently in open conditions."

The report noted:

"Some indeterminate-sentenced prisoners who had moved from closed conditions were not eligible to start ROTL for a long period, and they needed more support from staff to stay motivated and engaged during the months leading up to gaining approval for ROTL."

A total of 36 men were serving life sentences and 19 were serving indeterminate sentences for pubic protection.

What else did inspectors look at?

Prison leaders had provided "a real impetus to developing a wide range of useful partnerships, particularly with employers, some of whom now saw the prison as a source of reliable and effective employees."

There were more than 14,000 'ROTL events' in the six months to November 2017.

Prisoners who were not eligible for ROTL were encouraged to attend activities within the prison and there were sufficient places for all of them to do something.

However, more needed to be done to motivate those who still needed to improve their functional skills to engage in education before moving on to other activities. 

Spring Hill's communal and external areas were clean and prisoners could move freely around the "pleasant grounds." Some of the residential units, however, were dilapidated.

Peter Clarke said:

"The prison benefited from clear leadership, a motivated management team and a clear plan around how they wanted to improve the prison further.

"Some significant challenges remained, and it was encouraging that the governor understood and accepted the need for further work to focus on these areas. In terms of the conditions of the residential units, the prison needed external assistance to bring these up to an acceptable standard.

"In the key area of helping prisoners to prepare for release, the prison was doing better than previously, but needed to ensure that all supporting processes for ROTL were robust and provided sufficient reassurance. Nevertheless, this was an encouraging inspection overall."

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive of Her Majesty's Prison and Probation Service, said:

"I am pleased that the Chief Inspector has highlighted the positive work being done at Spring Hill to support prisoners into employment post-release. This significantly reduces their risk of reoffending.

"Public protection is our top priority and the Governor has introduced enhanced support for newly received prisoners and further strengthened authorisation procedures for Temporary Release in line with the Inspectorate's recommendations."

Read the report here (pdf)

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