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Press Release: 09.02.09

9th February 2009

Concern over bail hostel secrecy “scandal”.

Concern was raised this week at Government plans to expand the use of controversial bail hostels – effectively small open prisons – in residential neighbourhoods. The hostels, used to house early release prisoners and criminal suspects, are being opened across the country by Labour Ministers because of insufficient prison places. The hostels are being imposed on local communities without consultation.

The bail hostels are run by a private company called ClearSprings, and are funded from the public purse. They house offenders released before the end of their sentences, and people on bail awaiting trial for criminal offences who otherwise would be remanded in custody.

Last year ClearSprings closed a bail hostel in Kemsley following protests from local residents and councillors. There are currently no bail hostels in Swale, however the Government is planning to expand the number of hostels in England, so potentially ClearSprings could open one on another local estate.

Local Conservative Parliamentary Candidate, Gordon Henderson, said:
‘Today, bail is too easily granted, frequently breached and weakly enforced. Now, because the Government has failed to provide enough prison capacity, ministers have devised a plan to set up mini open-jails in residential areas.

‘Of course, it could be argued that bail hostels, opened in the right location following consultation with residents and local authorities, might be a good thing. However, a leaked memo makes clear that ClearSprings can open these hostels without any consultation with the public. They don’t even have to consult with the Probation Service. That is scandalous.

‘This is not a responsible way to assist offenders, who receive minimal supervision and support, when what they need is a long-term programme of resettlement.

‘An incoming Conservative government would immediately suspend this programme. In place of these clumsy emergency measures, we need a proper programme of prison reform to focus on rehabilitation and ensure that public safety and confidence is maintained.’

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