Block on pub visits for prisoners

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Governors are to stop prisoners visiting pubs and womanising while out on licence, the Prison Service said last night.

Weekend reports about prisoners visiting pubs and girlfriends while doing day jobs as part of their sentence brought further embarrassment to the beleaguered service. Stories of the easy lifestyle of prisoners at Leyhill, near Bristol, and Ford open prison near Littlehampton, West Sussex, angered Tory MP Terry Dicks.

He demanded: "Just what is going on? Is there anybody out there running the service? People who are sent to jail should be locked up, not allowed to visit pubs and girlfriends."

A Prison Service spokesman said: "The open prison system does fulfil an important role in rehabilitating people back into society. But prisoners are not allowed to drink alcohol while out on licence. This and any other abuses of the system will be investigated by the governors of the prisons concerned."

Prisoners found to be abusing the system were likely to lose privileges, he said.

Rules concerning day release have recently been tightened up by the Home Secretary, Michael Howard, after cases of inmates reoffending while working outside prisons or while out on bail.

Chris Scott, chairman of the Prison Governors' Association, said: "We have toughened up the rules, and before anyone is allowed out on licence they will have been thoroughly assessed. The scheme does help prisoners reintegrate back into society."

The Prison Service last night defended its decision to one prisoner, Rod Henry, out of Leyhill jail three times a week to work on restoring a local church while serving a life sentence for the rape and murder of a 92-year-old widow. The Sunday Express said yesterday that after clocking on for work, he visits his girlfriend and then goes down to the local pub.

A statement from the Prison Service said: "Rod Henry is undergoing an approved community resettlement programme, which involves work placement of up to three days a week. ... There has been no indication of non-compliance with the licence or complaints from centre staff. The governor will be investigating the matter thoroughly and should there be any evidence the licence has been broken, appropriate action will be taken immediately."