Suspend contract for 'secret' bail hostels

14 July 2008

Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert has called for the suspension of a private contract to house prisoners in the community following claims from a ‘whistleblower’ that the public are being put at risk.

One of the bail hostels had been sited in Arundel but it was never opened after a protest from the local community.

In June last year, ClearSprings Ltd was awarded a three year, multi-million pound contract by the Ministry of Justice to house ‘low-risk' prisoners released early on tags or suspects remanded on bail.

Since then, over 150 properties in ordinary residential streets across England and Wales have been acquired by ClearSprings to house prisoners and hundreds more will be converted.  It is envisaged that up to 1,300 prisoners could be housed under the scheme, which has been introduced by the Government to reduce severe overcrowding in prisons.

On Thursday night (10 July), Channel 4 News reported that a former employee of ClearSprings had contacted them to say that there was not enough staff to provide proper supervision and that inappropriate offenders, some of them violent offenders, were being placed in the hostels. 

The former employee, a support officer with 20 years experience as a community worker, said: "As people get busier and more and more referrals are made, then more and more mistakes are probably going to be made and past convictions get overlooked.  With people with drug and mental health problems who are feeling anxious, who are not getting the services they need, that is just an accident waiting to happen."

The claims have been backed by a former senior executive of ClearSprings who also resigned after voicing his concerns to the company.   He contacted Channel 4 News to claim that staff and public safety were being compromised in order to cut costs.

Speaking on the programme, Mr Herbert, who is Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, said: "Local people are paying the price.  They wake up in the morning and find that a mini open prison has been set up in the next door house, with no consultation, and find that there is no supervision or support for the offenders who are there.  It's simply not the right policy.  It must now be suspended."

In January this year, it emerged that ClearSprings had acquired a house in Howard Road, Arundel to serve as a bail hostel.  There was no consultation with the local community and, when the news broke, around 200 people attended a meeting at Arundel Football Club to voice their concerns. 

Local residents heard from Mr Herbert who provided strong backing for the campaign.  Three days later, in the face of overwhelming local opposition, ClearSprings reversed their decision to open the hostel in Arundel.

Ends

 

Notes for Editors

1. To view the Channel 4 News report, visit http://link.brightcove.com/services/link/bcpid1184614595/bctid1659895124

2. ClearSprings houses prisoners or suspects on bail deemed to be of "low to medium risk" and includes people suspected or convicted of crimes such as burglary, drink-driving, fraud and deception. They do not house people suspected or convicted of arson or sexual offences. No supervision is provided on-site and neighbours are invited to ring a helpline number to report any incidents or concerns. Up to four same-sex prisoners would have been housed at 15 Howard Road, which is in a quiet residential area of Arundel.

3. For the news release from Nick Herbert on the victory of local residents against the bail hostel in Arundel, visit http://www.nickherbert.com/news.php/206/Residents%20win%20victory%20against%20Arundel%20bail%20hostel

4. For the website of ClearSprings, visit http://www.clearsprings.co.uk/.

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