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Thursday, November 26, 2009

 

Prison raffle offers inmates chance of a 'day out'

Prison raffle offers inmates chance of a 'day out'

Prisoners have been offered the chance of winning a day out of jail as top prize in their Christmas raffle in a move which has angered victim support groups.

 

Lucy Croft

Telegraph UK
1:43PM GMT 26 Nov 2009

Inmates at HMP Kirkham, near Blackpool, Lancashire, have been told they could enjoy a whole day of freedom if they enter the $1 draw.

The raffle is open to the 590 prisoners held at the category D jail, some of whom will include rapists, murderers and other violent offenders coming to the end of their sentences

However, to be eligible for entry in the draw, they must first volunteer to cook Christmas dinner for the elderly at the nearby Milbanke Day Centre.

The reward, which has been condoned by Justice Secretary Jack Straw, has angered the families of violent crime victims.

Patsy McKie, 62, who set up Mothers Against Violence after her son Dory was shot dead, said: "They should not be releasing people on this basis. Prisoners shouldn't be rewarded for whatever they have done.

"Anyone could win that prize – even the most dangerous man who is coming to the end of his sentence. They should be looking at the individuals and whether they have been rehabilitated enough to be in the community and society."

HMP Kirkham, a former RAF training base, is an open prison for offenders considered to be low-risk, yet it has a serious problem with drug abuse and holds the dubious record of having more prisoners abscond than any other jail in the UK.

Almost 1,000 inmates absconded in the space of five years, between 1998 to 2003.

Prisoners are released on license from the open prison as part of their rehabilitation, but this is the first time the prison has offered freedom as a raffle prize.

The concept is allowed under the Incentives and Earned Privilege Scheme, introduced in 1995, which aims to encourage good behaviour by allowing inmates certain privileges such as wearing their own clothes or watching TV in their cells.

However, the draw has even been condemned by the Prison Officers Association.

A spokesman said: "I think, as a prison officer, prisoners buying raffle tickets with public money to win a day out where they can go out and enjoy themselves is fundamentally wrong. I'm very disappointed if that's what is happening at Kirkham."

Michael Jack, Conservative MP for Fylde, Lancashire, said: "I think the scheme to encourage prisoners to contribute to wider society through cooking a Christmas meal for elderly people who are considerably less well off than they are is a good idea.

"But to then link it to time out of prison, I think is incorrect."

A spokesman for the Prison Service admitted that the raffle has been planned, but denied there would be any risk to public safety.

"Public protection is our top priority and the rehabilitation of offenders is a vital part of this process," he said.

"HMP Kirkham holds low-risk prisoners in open conditions. All prisoners are rigorously risk-assessed before release on temporary licence and no prisoners are released if there are concerns for public safety.

"Only prisoners who meet the eligibility criteria are granted temporary release."

In January 2004 Kirkham became the first prison in England, along with HMP Morton Hall, to trial the Intermittent Custody Scheme, dubbed "weekend prison", which was later abandoned in November 2006.

The scheme had allowed some inmates to be released at weekends while others took their place with the aim of enabling prisoners on short sentences to remain in employment, housing and spend time with family.


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