Thursday, 24th July 2014

Prison to have adult inmates

Stoke Heath Young Offenders Institution, near Market Drayton, is to expand to become a full adult jail.

It was confirmed this week that the building will also be used as a Category C prison meaning it will house older adults as well as the 18-21 year-olds it already accommodates.

Under the plans, revealed by prison chiefs, it is hoped some offenders will be able to help out in local businesses or carry out community projects on a daily basis as part of helping them settle back into society.

These prisoners are assessed as a low risk to the community and checks will be made with various agencies before they are released on temporary license.

Stoke Heath currently has young offenders working in hospices, charity shops, gardening, reparation work and involvement with the Prince’s Trust.

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Justice said: “Stoke Heath will still hold a number of young offenders as well as Category C males.

“These are offenders who cannot be trusted in an open prison, but are unlikely to try and escape.”

The spokeswoman added the changes wouldn’t have any impact on jobs at the institution.

Annette Sharp, prison officer from Stoke Heath YOI, said: “We are hoping that, towards the end of this year, we may have a small percentage of adults who would be available to help out in local businesses or carry out community projects on a daily basis.

“To offer an offender regular work in the community would not only increase their motivation to change, but helps them to gain experience and maybe employment when they are released fully from custody.

“Also, because this work is on a voluntary basis, local businesses may benefit from the free labour provided by our offenders.”

The prison sits in the parish of Stoke-on-Tern. Chairman of the parish council, Pete Waters, said: “We can only embrace the news. We can’t do anything to stop and it and it will be good to get the offenders out doing some work in the community.”

By Joseph Masi