February 22, 2022 10.14 am

Union rep says officers are “not protected” in open prisons

The recent case of Paul Robson caused a lot of debate

An experienced prison officer and union representative for prison officers at HMP North Sea Camp says “they’re not protected at all”.

Open prisons became the subject of much debate this month when convicted sex offender Paul Robson absconded from HMP North Sea Camp near Boston on Sunday, February 13. He was the second person to abscond from the prison in 2022, and over 100 absconded from the same location over the last decade.

The 56-year-old was arrested after a brief foot chase with police in Skegness on February 17. He was later charged with escaping lawful custody and was also accused of stealing a pedal cycle from the Prison Service.

A hearing was fixed for Robson to return to court on March 18, while the Ministry of Justice said he will “face an uphill struggle proving he can ever be trusted to move to an open prison”.

Jackie Marshall is a prison officer of over 30 years who works for the Prison Officers Association. When asked how protected her officers are in an open prison, she told BBC Look North: “They’re not protected at all. At night time they can carry a baton now and that was after a lot of campaigning by the POA.”

North Sea Camp is an open prison near Boston for category D criminals. It has been open since 1935. | Photo: John Aron for The Lincolnite

She believes there are people being placed in open prisons that shouldn’t be there. When asked if this was putting members of the public at risk, she added: “Yes, because there’s no physical security.”

On the last inspection of HMP North Sea Camp in April 2021, there were 336 prisoners held at the open prison. Over half were convicted of sexual offences, and 70% were presenting a high risk of harm to others.

The Ministry of Justice told BBC Look North: “There was not a single violent incident reported last year at HMP North Sea Camp. Any prisoner who was violent or breached the rules would be returned to close conditions, which means incidents and absconds are rare.”