Prisoners absconding: an open and shut case?

Published: 17th Jul 2015

In brief

Claim

There are 363 murderers in open prisons; 106 murderers have absconded from open prisons in the last 10 years; and there are 179 offenders in open prisons who've absconded before.

Conclusion

These figures are correct but not up to date. As many as 122 murderers absconded from open prisons in the decade up to 2013/2014.

"It's bad enough that in the latest figures I have there are 363 murderers in open prisons, and that 106 murderers have absconded from open prisons in the last ten years, but these figures also show that there are 179 offenders in open prisons who have previously absconded from an open prison."

Philip Davies MP, 15 July 2015

"I can tell him we have already overhauled the process for allowing prisoners out on temporary license and that has led to a 39% drop in the number of those who breach their licence conditions. The rate of prisoners escaping from prison has reached a record low. As I understand it, prisoners with a history of escaping or absconding while on temporary release are prevented from transferring to open conditions other than in the more exceptional cases."

David Cameron, 15 July 2015

Philip Davies is right that there were 363 offenders serving a murder sentence in open prisons on 31 December 2013 and that 179 offenders in open prisons as at 30 May 2014 had previously absconded from an open prison.

Absconds are when there isn't a physical barrier to prisoners' escapes, and overwhelmingly happen at open prisons.

There were 106 murderers who had absconded from open prisons in the ten years up until 2012/13. But these aren't the latest figures he has, which show that were 122 in the ten years up until 2013/14.

The Prime Minister's claim of a 39% drop in the number of prisoners who breach their temporary licence conditions is true. And it is right to say this is at a record low (53 failures per 100,000 incidents of release in 2014) with those who breach being returned to a closed prison. But breaches of temporary licence aren't the same as absconding, which is what Philip Davies was referring to.

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