AFTER working in the media for nearly four decades little surprises or shocks me these days – but that changed this week when it was announced that Thorn Cross Open Prison was going to start taking sex offenders later this year.
The most surprising/shocking element was the complete lack of local consultation with anyone, until a decision had been taken.
To add insult to injury, this decision was taken within a matter of weeks of me having a meeting with the prison governor, in my capacity as a local councillor, in relation to building and improving community relations.
As soon as I was made aware of the decision, via local residents who received a letter detailing the proposals, I was back in touch with the prison, urging a meeting with all interested parties, to discuss the implications and have an opportunity to call for an urgent re-think.
I am still waiting to hear of such a meeting, although I was told one will take place soon.
Well that needs to be sooner rather than later as it has caused a huge amount of distress and upset in the local community – a community which has always been under the impression sex offenders would never be housed at Thorn Cross, which is almost directly opposite the local primary school and within easy walking distance of two local nurseries. Hardly a suitable location to “test” sex offenders before they are released.
Thorn Cross has a history of prisoners absconding and going on to commit further crimes – so whatever tests are carried out clearly don’t always work.
In my opinion Thorn Cross is simply not the right open prison to accommodate sex offenders who need rehabilitation.
Hopefully the Minister of State for Justice Rory Stewart and the prison authorities will use some common sense and reverse this decision, as one thing is certain, the local community will not sit back and tolerate it, unless there is a convincing argument that these sex offenders are of absolute no threat to the local community. I doubt this guarantee can ever be given as no one can guarantee how anyone will respond when opportunity is put in front of them.
— Gary Skentelbery (@GarySkent) June 6, 2018