G4S to let jailed Sex Offenders roam free on the town with rehab programme

Jailed sex offenders to be given days out on the town with their families in rehab programme led by security firm

Town visits to be run by security firm GS4
Families living close to the jail say they knew nothing of the plan
Goal to integrate sex offenders with prison population at new multimillion pound jail
Rules state each prisoner will be vetoed

By Phil Vinter
PUBLISHED: 12:13, 25 April 2012 | UPDATED: 14:48, 25 April 2012

Parents living near a new Midlands prison say they are ‘disgusted’ by the news that sex offenders will be released into the community on day visits.

It has emerged that prisoners at HMP Oakwood, near Wolverhampton are to be permitted to leave the £200million jail to spend time with their families.

The ‘town visits’ will form part of a rehabilitation programme and be run by private security firm G4S.

Rules state that each prisoner will undergo a strict risk assessment before being allowed out of the jail on day trips.

But families living close to the jail said they knew nothing of the plan.

A parent of a pupil at a nearby school, who did not wish to be named, said: ‘I am disgusted with this. No one has informed us that these fiends will be free to walk around the area close to schools and other public places.’

HMP Oakwood director Steve Holland confirmed sex offenders would be housed at the jail and said G4S was negotiating to implement treatment programmes for the prisoners concerned.

He insisted the prisoners would be vetted before they were included on the town visits programme.

Mark Leech, editor of the Prisoners’ Handbook, said residents living near the jail had clearly been unaware that sex offenders would be walking the streets as part of their rehabilitation.

He said: ‘Neighbouring residents have been complaining about extra traffic and a lack of public transport for staff and visitors, but it seems they have missed the point with their fears about the prison,’ he said.

‘They have obviously not realised that these inmates will be roaming the area with their families to prepare them for release.’

The first prisoners arrived at Oakwood yesterday.

The prison houses category C inmates, defined as those who cannot be trusted in open conditions but are considered unlikely to make a determined escape attempt.

Mr Leech, who served time for robbery and is now a successful businessman, added: ‘I welcome the opening of HMP Oakwood, because it will help to ease overcrowding in the West Midlands and enable more prisoners from the region to be closer to their families.

‘However as a Category C Prison taking convicted sex offenders, residents need to know that these inmates can be allowed out on visits with their families once a risk assessment has been conducted.’

Mr Holland said sex offenders will initially be segregated from the general population in the jail but that eventually the goal is to integrate them into the main part of the prison.

He added: ‘The community needs to be reassured that they are not put at any risk.

‘Prisoners will be individually assessed before being given access to town visits.’

A spokesman for GS4 security said: ‘As with any Category C prison of this size, Oakwood’s population comprises prisoners who have committed a number of offences including sexual offences.

‘Prisoners may be released on temporary licence – but only providing they meet strict criteria and pass a rigorous risk assessment.

‘Only those assessed as representing minimal risk of escape or risk of harm to the public are eligible.

‘Release on temporary licence is used to prepare prisoners for their eventual release from custody.

‘It helps to reduce the chance of re-offending by setting up appropriate employment and rehabilitation work in the community, and maintaining family contact.

‘This is essential for successful resettlement and an important factor in protecting the public.

‘If prisoners breach their licence in any way, they will be subject to disciplinary proceedings.’

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