Hundreds of prisoners were sent back to closed prisons from the open HMP Kirkham last year, with many judged to be ‘unsuitable’ to be there, a report has found.
The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) said 289 lags were moved to more secure prisons last year, most of whom were not fit for minimum security.
The report’s findings come after a number of manhunts for fugitives who have walked out the gates in Freckleton Road in recent years.
They include ‘dangerous’ killer Anthony Curry, who fled in August before being recaptured days later.
His disappearance, as well as 20 others in 2017, sparked concern amongst residents and councillors, including Coun Elaine Silverwood (inset), who said she was ‘certainly not happy’ about ‘potentially dangerous prisoners in an open prison who can just walk out the gate’. She added: “Is it as simple as there aren’t enough spaces in the prisons?”
Fylde MP Mark Menzies said 21 prisoners absconded last year, and said he will write to ministers to highlight the report’s findings.
But he praised staff, who were praised for their caring attitude, and for keeping standards high.
He added: “I recently visited and was impressed with the number of schemes running to help rehabilitate prisoners who are coming to the end of their sentences.”
Jean Adam, IMB Kirkham chairman, said that, despite the number of absconds, the prison is still ‘safe’.
She praised the prison’s training and education programme and said: “Kirkham are not in a position to pick and choose who gets sent to the establishment so it is inevitable there will be some prisoners arriving who are not suited to an open regime.”
As well as the number of unsuitable prisoners, the IBM’s report also highlighted problems with the supply of both the hot and cold water, and heating to the housing blocks and offices.
It also said ‘excellent support is offered to prisoners who find it difficult to transition from a closed prison to an open establishment’.
The Ministry of Justice said the public’s safety is the department’s ‘highest concern’, with prisoners put through an ‘extremely stringent risk assessment’ before being moved to an open prison. Absconders, if caught, are put back in ‘much tougher, closed prisons’, possibly for longer, it added.