Lord Falconer of Thoroton – 2015 Parliamentary Question to the Ministry of Justice

The below Parliamentary question was asked by Lord Falconer of Thoroton on 2015-12-09.

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many prisoners who have previously absconded remain in open conditions.

Lord Faulks

In May 2014, the Coalition Government introduced a new policy so that prisoners with a history of escape, absconding or serious temporary release failure during the current sentence are prevented from transfer to open conditions, other than in the most exceptional circumstances. There has been only one case satisfying the condition of exceptional circumstances since the policy was implemented. In addition, any prisoner who absconds from an open prison is immediately returned to a higher security prison.

When the policy was implemented, it was not applied retrospectively. Prisoners already in open conditions were reassessed by senior officials in the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), and any who were assessed as presenting an unacceptable risk in such conditions in light of their previous non-compliance were returned to closed prisons, with the remainder allowed to remain in open conditions because of their compliance with the regime and favourable risk assessment.

On 4 December 2015, there were 15 prisoners in open prisons who were recorded as having absconded between 1 April 2004 and 21 May 2014 when the policy change came into force.

Reliable electronic records for absconds and temporary release failures prior to 2004 are not available, therefore only incidents since 2004 could be considered. The data set used here includes prisons classified as having their predominant function to be open. These figures have been drawn from administrative IT systems which, as with any large scale recording system, are subject to possible errors with data entry and processing.