Open Prison Sex Offenders Anger

A town council has said it will continue a campaign to stop sex offenders being housed at an open jail. Three child rapists and a number of other inmates have absconded from Prescoed jail near Usk, in Monmouthshire, since 2004.

In a letter to Usk Town Council, UK prisons minister Gerry Sutcliffe said up to 20 sex offenders would be housed at Prescoed. Currently there is one. Usk councillors said they were “dismayed” at the letter.

Since 2004, many sex offenders have been housed at open prisons as they near the end of their sentence. Shortly after the policy’s introduction, a convicted rapist went on the run from Prescoed before being recaptured. He was followed in July 2005 by child rapists John Elms, 34, and Martin Aspinall, 46, who were missing for two days.

Several other inmates including those convicted of murder, assault and robbery have also walked out of Prescoed.

Some local politicians in Usk and elsewhere in Monmouthshire, have called for and end of the policy of housing sex offenders in open prisons. But prisons minister Mr Sutcliffe said in a letter to Usk Town Council that the policy would continue. He said: “It is the intention of the prison service to continue to house a limited number of sex offenders at Prescoed and I endorse this.

“The numbers are currently very low and I have told [Monmouth MP and AM] David Davies that the prison service intends to continue to honour the commitment to keep the numbers to no more than 20. The prison service has a responsibility to ensure that every offender it holds is released in the best state of rehabilitation possible.”

Mr Sutcliffe added that a resettlement programme of the kind operated at Prescoed reduced the likelihood of all types of offenders from committing further crimes. But Usk town councillor Alec Leathwood said members of the town council would probably write to all MPs asking for their support in getting the scheme stopped.

Mr Leathwood added: “We are totally dismayed and are really concerned that having reached this stage they may now try to increase the number of prisoners held at Prescoed to around the 20 he talks about in the letter. Hitherto there’s only been a very small number and there’s only one there at the moment.

“It’s expected we will write to all Members of Parliament. We are going to continue with this campaign because we believe it is only a matter of time before there is some serious incident either in our community or in other communities which have open prisons in their areas.”