Hundreds of sex offenders are being released from jail despite posing a risk to the public due to “shocking” failings by a major prison, a damning report has revealed.
An inspection of HMP Dartmoor, which holds high-risk offenders, found that it was failing to protect the public because of “unplanned, rushed and poor” release planning, with many sex offenders subsequently leaving without having sufficiently addressed their behaviour.
The prison, which held 440 sex offenders at the time of the inspection - making up 70 per cent of the jail's population - did not have adequate resources to effectively engage in pre-release planning, inspectors found.
While the prison was “well led in many ways”, HM Chief Inspectorate of Prisons Peter Clarke said there were serious concerns relating to resettlement, which had led to a “shocking and totally unacceptable” situation whereby high-risk men were being released despite still being a public risk.
He said: “Our most serious concerns related to resettlement. Dartmoor was not a designated resettlement prison, which meant it did not have adequate resources to effectively engage in pre-release planning. Despite this, over 200 men in the year leading up to the inspection had been released from the prison.
“Our projections indicated the number would be even higher next year. In addition, offender management provision did not ensure that men received support to reduce the risks of harm they might pose to the public on release, or that release planning for the highest-risk men was timely or comprehensive.”
The situation was exacerbated by the prison’s inability to move men to resettlement prisons in the local area, leading to failure to carry out the national prisons strategy of transferring men back to a local resettlement prison three months prior to their release.
Inspectors found there was little pre-release provision for those who were in denial of their sexual convictions, with nearly one in five inmates not under Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) — the national system for managing risk to the public.
“Far too many” men also left the jail either homeless or in very temporary accommodation, which campaigners urged was particularly concerning given that sex offenders often face additional obstacles to successful resettlement.
Mr Clarke added: “While we considered Dartmoor to be well led and making strides in some important areas, it was being hampered by confusion nationally about its role, doubts about its future and inadequate resources to do the job it was being asked to do.”
Responding to the report, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: “Having a robust release plan is as important for people convicted of sex offencers as for any other prisoners.
“But this growing section of the prison population has particular needs and faces additional obstacles to successful resettlement. It is important that prisons such as Dartmoor are given the necessary support at a national level to deliver for the people they hold.“
Michael Spurr, chief executive of HM Prison and Probation Service, urged that protecting the public is the service's priority and that all high-risk offenders released from HMP Dartmoor were supervised by the National Probation Service.
He said: "The vast majority are released to approved accommodation and all are seen by their probation officer on the first day of release to reinforce their licence conditions. A review of risk management arrangements has taken place and a new senior probation officer is also already in post to oversee the management of higher risk offenders.
"As the Chief Inspector makes clear the prison is well led and the Governor will receive the support she needs to address the recommendations set out in this report."
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