Five murderers have absconded from Ford Prison
Official figures obtained by Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert show that five murderers have absconded from Ford Open Prison since 2007.
Other prisoners, convicted of offences ranging from manslaughter to robbery, aggravated burglary, wounding and grievous bodily harm, have also walked out of the jail.
Mr Herbert, whose constituency includes HMP Ford, obtained the figures from Justice Minister Maria Eagle after submitting a Written Question in the House of Commons.
The Ministry of Justice figures show that a convicted murderer absconded from Ford in October 2007 and a second murderer absconded in August 2009. In addition, inmates who failed to return from temporary release are classified as "temporary release failures" and three murderers absconded in this way in February 2007, June 2008 and April 2009.
However, for both types of escape the Parliamentary answer fails to say whether or when these violent offenders were recaptured. The Ministry of Justice also refused to give information on what sanctions were imposed on those inmates who were returned to prison.
Absconds from HMP Ford have come down from a high of 142 in 2003-04, but there was still one abscond every week in 2008-09.
Open prisons, designed to hold prisoners at the end of their custodial sentence, have come under increasing pressure in recent years to accept more prisoners as a way of easing the overcrowding crisis in local jails.
Nick Herbert commented: "These figures reveal ongoing security problems at Ford and the public deserve full information on how many of these escaped criminals are still at large."
Mr Herbert added: "This Government has released 80,000 prisoners early because Gordon Brown failed to provide adequate prison capacity and on top of this, ongoing failures at prisons like Ford mean that inmates are still managing to abscond every week."
Nick Gibb, MP for Bognor Regis & Littlehampton said: "People who live in the vicinity of an open prison have a right to expect that the prison will not accommodate prisoners who are at risk of absconding. These figures make it clear that the number of abscondees is still unacceptably high and more needs to be done to ensure these figures are significantly reduced in the years ahead."
Notes for Editors
1. Full details of the prison absconds from HMP Ford are contained in the Written Question and Answer available here: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmhansrd/cm100329/text/100329w0014.htm#10032948000024.
2. In 2008, Nick Herbert appeared on the BBC's Panorama programme to comment on the case of Richard MacDonald who absconded from Ford Prison in 2006, just three years into an eight year sentence for armed robbery. MacDonald carried out a further armed robbery in South-East London while on the run. According to Panorama, MacDonald was transferred to Ford Open Prison despite a record of two previous escapes from separate jails. For more information, visit http://www.nickherbert.com/news.php/182/Nick%20Herbert:%20"public%20at%20risk"%20as%20violent%20prisoners%20abscond.
3. HMP Ford is a category ‘D' training establishment with an emphasis on resettlement. A former Fleet Air Arm Station, it converted to an open prison in 1960 and currently houses more than 500 prisoners. The prison is currently located in Nick Herbert's constituency until Parliament dissolves next week, when it will be located within the new revised boundary of the Bognor Regis & Littlehampton constituency.