Shadow Prisons Minister visits Ford Prison
Shadow Prisons Minister Edward Garnier QC visited Ford Prison this week as part of the Conservative Party’s policy development process.
Mr Garnier, who is the MP for Harborough in Leicestershire and who has been Shadow Prisons Minister since December 2005, is currently undertaking a tour of prisons and Young Offender Institutions in England and Wales. He has so far visited more than 15.
The Shadow Minister's visit to Ford on Monday (16 April) comes at a time of continuing concern about the security regime at Ford Prison and follows the visit of the Prisons Minister, Gerry Sutcliffe, and Nick Herbert MP on Thursday 22 March.
Mr Garnier met with the Prison Governor, staff and prisoners to discuss the challenges facing the prison and the open prison estate and to see for himself the day to day working environment.
With the prison population standing at record levels across the country, and with closed prisons full to capacity, Mr Garnier highlighted one of the key problems facing Ford and other open prisons:
"In the open estate, which was designed to get long-term prisoners ready for release through limited but increasing exposure to the world of work on the outside, we are now seeing short-term prisoners being sent there because there is no room in the secure estate. They are unsettling the regime, bring with them the multiple diagnoses for substance abuse and mental problems that should be sorted out in secure prisons and placing huge stain on the security of the open prisons and the locality.
"We are seeing too many absconds from open prisons because of the placing of unsuitable offenders in open conditions to relieve the overcrowding in the secure estate and some of these offenders immediately commit further offences.
"This is a problem that is only going to get worse as the Government scrabbles around looking for short term but catastrophic solutions to a mess of their own making."
Speaking about the work that Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert has done to highlight failings at Ford Prison, Edward Garnier said: "Nick Herbert is right to complain about the Government's lack of respect for the security of his constituents and to take this up vigorously with the Home Office and the Prison Governor."
Nick Herbert commented: "I am glad that Edward Garnier was able to visit Ford and to see for himself some of the problems in open prisons.
"It is clear to both of us that the Government's mismanagement of the criminal justice system has resulted in unsuitable offenders being transferred to open prisons, causing disruption and increasing the risk of drugs problems and escapes."