Warning over violent criminals in Doncaster’s open prison

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A Doncaster MP has warned violent criminals should not be placed in the borough’s open prison after a spike in absconding offenders.

Don Valley MP Caroline Flint raised concerns with bosses at HMP Hatfield after 18 offenders, many of whom were serving sentences for serious crimes, walked out of the prison last year.

Ms Flint said: “My biggest concern is about prisoners who have committed serious or violent crimes.

“It is vital that the prison service does everything to ensure they are not put into an open prison like Hatfield if they pose any threat. I met the prison’s assessment staff and I’m very reassured that this prison is doing a good job.”

The comments came after Ms Flint visited the new Hatfield Lakes prison site this week.

The facility, which opened last summer, takes prisoners who have been assessed as safe to be moved from closed prisons to open conditions and assesses them for three months before they move to HMP Hatfield’s main site.

Ms Flint said: “I raised my concerns with the Governor Chris Dyer and the Minister Andrew Selous when we saw a spike in the number of absconds from Hatfield and elsewhere in the UK.

“I know this is taken very seriously and that action has since been taken to review the assessment process for open transfer and ensure prisoners are returned to closed conditions when they abscond. There will always be a few prisoners who do the stupid thing and walk out. Some hear about family problems at home and leave, only to find the police knocking on their door the next day.

“A few get into debt to other prisoners and leave.

“When inmates have problems they need to talk to the prison staff, not run. That is the sure way to end up with a longer sentence in a closed prison.”

On her visit to Hatfield Lakes prison Ms Flint saw inmates preparing the ground for planting vegetables and saw others in a workshop repairing and restoring furniture.

She then visited the education department where she talked to inmates who were improving their IT and job searching skills.

“It is strange to have a prison that doesn’t have any locks and an open gate – but we have had open prisons for many years in the UK. These prisoners are coming towards the end of their sentences, and they have to be ready to go back out into everyday life, get jobs and settle down.”

A surprise inspection in August by Prison Inspectors concluded HMP Hatfield was a good, safe prison.