Sex Offenders Jail Row Reopened

The row over a Home Office programme to house sex offenders at an open prison in Monmouthshire has been reopened by a leading Labour politician in Wales. Wales’ Social Justice Minister Edwina Hart has again intervened and spoken of her disappointment at the lack of review of the policy. It follows a series of inmates, including child rapists and murderers, absconding from Prescoed jail near Usk.

Local councillors who have campaigned for a policy change welcomed the move.

Mrs Hart reveals in a letter to Usk town council, obtained by BBC Wales, that she has written to the Home Office twice following a summer in which a number of prisoners have absconded.

They included two child rapists who walked out of the jail in July a couple of days after being transferred there. A convicted murderer who disappeared in the same month was found by police in Jersey this week.

Mrs Hart had first written to the government two years ago when another child rapist had absconded within weeks of the start of the programme to rehabilitate sex offenders nearing the end of their sentence at Prescoed. In a letter to Usk town council the minister says she has written to the Home Office twice following this summer’s developments.

In the letter she says is “disappointed” that there will be no formal review of policy of what she describes as the “housing of dangerous offenders at open prisons.”

She goes on to say that she appreciates the rehabilitative benefits of housing some prisoners in less restrictive conditions, but feels that the safety of the public must always be of primary concern.

Mrs Harts letter concludes by saying that she has been told that an official inquiry into the recent escape of the two paedophiles has been commissioned.

She says that the Prison Service will have a regular dialogue with local people to hear of their concerns. Usk town council has been very active in its continued opposition of the programme of rehabilitating prisoners at Prescoed.

Town councillors are now going to write to every MP revoicing their concerns.

Councillor Tony Kear said he was delighted that politicians from across the political divide about the programme.

Monmouth MP David Davies has long argued that sex offenders should not be housed at Prescoed. Fellow Conservative AM for south Wales east, Laura Jones, said she too is appalled that the concerns of local residents are not being taken seriously.

The Prison Service in Wales has said there is likely to be a policy review after two child rapists absconded from Prescoed.

In a statement the Home Office said: “There have been open prisons for 70 years and they are the most effective way of ensuring that prisoners are tested in the community before they’re released.

“It helps reduce re-offending rates: to release prisoners directly from a closed prison, without the resettlement benefits of the open estate would undoubtedly lead to higher levels of post-release re-offending.

“All those who are in open prisons have been rigorously risk assessed and categorised as being of low risk to the public.