Open jail criticised for lack of rigour

FORD open jail has an 'insufficiently rigorous' regime, according to a report today by Judge Stephen Tumim, the Chief Inspector of Prisons.

'At present it appears as an institution where prisoners who are in no way dangerous can reasonably comfortably pass the time awaiting the moment of discharge,' Judge Tumim said.

But there was low morale among staff and prisoners, and more should be done to equip prisoners to face life after their sentences. The report said some aspects of the prison, near Arundel in West Sussex, were 'admirable'. Catering and visitors' facilities were appreciated by prisoners and a new education department was praised. But the inspection team found 'few signs of leadership' below the top level.

Staff posted to Ford included 'too many who were either past their best or who had never been up to the mark'.

Ford is the United Kingdom's cheapest prison to run - costing pounds 239 a week per prisoner - but to give value for money needs to do more to prepare prisoners for release, with staff improving their performance, the report said. It called for staff to work towards an agreed programme, ensuring inmates were more active.

The prison service director general, Derek Lewis, said Judge Tumim's criticisms had been taken to heart by a new governor, David Godfrey. There were moves towards 'a vigorous regime designed to stretch inmates and prepare them for release'.