GOVERNMENT measures which will attempt to put a stop to criminals absconding from open prisons in the wake of recent high-profile incidents have been backed by Uttoxeter’s MP.
Andrew Griffiths has been among the fiercest critics of the open prison system in recent months, with violent inmates from Sudbury Open Prison continuing to flee while on temporary release.
The pressure on the Government has cranked up over the last fortnight after armed robber Michael Wheatley, known as the ‘Skull Cracker’, went on the run from an open prison in Kent.
Burglar Dean Peel became the latest criminal to flee from Sudbury on Tuesday, before being caught 24 hours later.
Tory MP Mr Griffiths wrote to Justice Secretary Chris Grayling demanding a review of the open prison system, with Mr Grayling now pledging to deliver change.
He said he would prevent prisoners who have absconded from returning to open prisons to stop repeat offenders such as Wheatley, who had previously been on the run, though the minister has yet to bow to calls to remove violent criminals from the system altogether.
But Mr Griffiths feels the development is a step in the right direction.
He told the Post and Times: “I have been growing increasingly concerned that locally serious offenders are absconding and that’s why I wrote to Chris Grayling.
“I’m really pleased that the Government will tighten up measures about which prisoners can be in open prisons.
“I think people in East Staffordshire and living near Sudbury will be relieved and will feel a lot safer as a result of these changes.”
Sudbury Open Prison has come under fire for its record over the past year, with many inmates seizing the opportunity to flee while on temporary release.
Prime Minister David Cameron faced questions on the issue during a visit to Derbyshire, where he vowed to make the process of determining which prisoners are suitable for open jails more ‘robust’.
Armed robber Wheatley is now back in custody after allegedly holding up a bank during his short time on the run.
Mr Cameron said: “In the case of this individual, I think I’m right in saying he had done the tariff that was set following his conviction and so he was, under the rules, applicable for potential release and that’s why I think he was put into a more open prison and allowed into the community.
“Clearly, this went wrong, so let’s learn the lessons of this case and make sure that our arrangements for testing whether a person is safe to be released are robust.”
Earlier this year, 10 inmates fled in just six weeks, while convicted murderer Carl Moses, went on the run last summer.