Watchdog worry at open prison

North Sea Camp prison, Freiston.
North Sea Camp prison, Freiston.

BUDGET cuts and an increase in numbers at HMP North Sea Camp have left the prison watchdog fearing for the future of the facility, according to its annual report.

The Independent Monitoring Boards said it did not see how the open prison could function as it was designed to under the constraints imposed by cost-cutting and a hike in numbers,

The body also said it was concerned about the ‘changing prisoner profile’ at the facility, as there are now more long-term prisoners than in previous years.

The report summary states: “The main concerns of the board relate to the changing prisoner profile and increase in prisoner population at North Sea Camp. At the same time the prison management is being asked to reduce overall spending.

“With an ageing prisoner population generating its own particular needs and demands on the budget plus more indeterminate public protection prisoners the Board cannot see how HMP North Sea Camp will be able to support or sustain the desired resettlement programmes which will facilitate prisoners re-integrating back into the local community.”

North Sea Camp has a total capacity for 378 prisoners, which has increased since the start of the year when some prisoners from Ford open prison were transferred to the Freiston base.

The IMB said it was worried this increase in numbers would lead to issues in the learning and skills which contribute to resettlement, unless more funding was provided.

The report also showed some religious activity at North Sea Camp had been reduced because of a lack of funding.

The Growth Journey programme is soon to be withdrawn, despite the success of the pilot scheme, as there is no funding for accreditation.

On a positive note, the report did say that the new healthcare building at the prison, which was opened earlier this year, was a ‘vast improvement’ on previous facilities.

The concerns come after prisoner Aaron Baggaley absconded from the open prison in July.

The prisoner had been transferred to the open facility despite being refused parole on an indefinite sentence.

A spokesman for the prison said: “Sadly not all (the prisoners) will be able to cope with the responsibilities and conditions imposed on them in an open establishment and this is one reason they abscond. We have some prisoners that have been kept in cells most of the day and they have to learn to deal with family issues, money, jobs and professional behaviours.”