Safety fears prompt prison visit

Ford Open Prison is at the centre of a political storm amid mounting safety concerns
Ford Open Prison is at the centre of a political storm amid mounting safety concerns

FORD Open Prison was due to be visited today (Thursday, June 19) by leading Arun councillors after it was revealed nearly 90 inmates were missing from the jail.

It was disclosed at a meeting of Arun District Council’s senior members on Monday (June 16).

During the cabinet meeting, councillor Ricky Bower expressed his concerns at recent events.

Mr Bower said: “Is this the opportunity to raise alarm at the admission from Ford Prison that there have been more than 80 absconders? As well as the severity of the crimes that these prisoners have been serving time for in Ford. I think we as a council need to express to Ford our concerns at what we have been told.”

Bognor Regis and Littlehampton MP Nick Gibb said the absconding rate from Ford was undermining public trust.

He said “The figure of 89 does include some who have been missing for a number of years. The figure per year is around 20, which in my view is still too high. What it indicates to me is that the wrong type of prisoners are being sent to Ford.

“The risk of prisoners absconding from the prison should be low. Inmates should only be sent there right at the end of their sentence, when there is no incentive for them to abscond.

“Secondly, the police need to be more rigorous in re-capturing every prisoner that absconds.

“This level of absconding undermines public trust in the community.”

Arun’s leader, councillor Gillian Brown, said swift action would be taken and she, along with councillor Roger Elkins and others, would be visiting the jail to ‘ask questions and express their concerns’ to the new governor

The district council has a strict agreement with the prison, which limits the category of prisoner that can be sent there. The future of this agreement will be discussed at today’s meeting.

For a special report on Ford prison, see this week’s Gazette.