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Open Prisons

Question for Ministry of Justice

UIN 212354, tabled on 28 October 2014

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, how many prisoners are serving custodial sentences in open prisons, broken down by the most serious offence for which they were imprisoned, in the most recent period for which figures are available.

Answered on

3 November 2014

The below table provides the number of prisoners serving both determinate and indeterminate sentences currently residing in open prisons, by offence group.

Prisoners serving a custodial sentence in open prisons by offence group, as at 30 September 2014, England and Wales


Violence against the person


Sexual offences






Theft and handling


Fraud and forgery


Drug offences


Motoring offences


Other offences


Offence not recorded





This information does not include:

Category D prisoners held in non predominant function open prisons

Category D prisoners held in open sites that are part of multi-site establishments performing different functions

Category D prisoners held in small (under 50 place) open units at predominant function closed prisons

These figures have been drawn from administrative IT systems which, as with any large scale recording system, are subject to possible errors with data entry and processing.

There are two means by which indeterminate sentenced prisoners (ISPs – both those serving life and indeterminate sentences for public protection (IPPs)) – are considered for transfer to open conditions. The principal means is by way of a positive recommendation from the independent Parole Board, which falls to officials either to accept or reject on behalf of the Secretary of State, under agreed delegated authority and in accordance with policy agreed by the Secretary of State. However, ISPs may also apply to progress to open conditions without a positive recommendation from the Parole Board being sought, where they can show exceptional progress in reducing their risk. Each application is determined on its merits under agreed delegated authority by officials in the Offender Management and Public Protection Group in the Ministry of Justice.

Determinate sentenced prisoners are assessed for their suitability for open conditions by experienced prison staff with relevant input from offender managers and other professionals within the prison. The assessment will consider the extent to which the prisoner has reduced identified risks and any intelligence or other information that provides evidence of the prisoner’s trustworthiness for conditions of very low security. Determinate sentence prisoners should not generally be moved to open prison if they have more than two years to serve to their earliest release date, unless assessment of a prisoner’s individual risks and needs support earlier categorisation to open conditions. Such cases must have the reasons for their categorisation fully documented and confirmed in writing by the Governing Governor.

All those located in open conditions have been rigorously risk assessed and their risks have been deemed manageable in open conditions.

The public have understandable concerns about the failure of a small minority of prisoners to return from temporary release from open prison. Keeping the public safe is our priority and we will not allow the actions of these offenders to undermine public confidence in the prison system. The number of temporary release failures remains very low; less that one failure in every 1,000 temporary releases and about five in every 100,000 temporary releases involving alleged offending, but we take each and every incident seriously. The Government has already ordered immediate changes to tighten up the system as a matter of urgency. Prisoners are now no longer eligible for transfer to open conditions if they have previously absconded from open prisons, or if they have failed to return or reoffended whilst released on temporary licence, unless there are exceptional circumstances.

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