Press release

New open prison unit launched at Drake Hall

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Justice Minister Simon Hughes opens a new unit at Drake Hall women’s prison aimed at preparing offenders for release.

Justice Minister Simon Hughes today (5 February 2015) opened a new unit at Drake Hall women’s prison aimed at preparing offenders for release, as well as ensuring links to their children are maintained during their sentence.

HMP Drake Hall will open new accommodation, just beyond the prison gate, which will house up to 25 offenders in open conditions. Time spent in open prisons affords low risk prisoners the opportunity to find work, re-establish family ties, reintegrate into the community and ensure housing needs are met before their release. These are essential components for successful resettlement and an important factor in protecting the public.

The new open unit at Drake Hall will also contain a facility that will allow the children of prisoners to stay overnight with their mothers for a meaningful visit. Helping offenders maintain relationships with their children can be a powerful factor in their rehabilitation, reducing the chance of them reoffending on release.

Justice Minister Simon Hughes said:

The new unit at Drake Hall represents a stepping stone back into the community for these women, giving them the chance to take responsibility and prepare to turn their lives around on release.

For mothers, the overnight facility will also offer the chance to strengthen relations with their children, which can be one of the most powerful possible motivations to turn away from crime for good.

This development is part of our wide-ranging reforms to drive down the number of women who reoffend by holding them closer to their families and the communities into which they will eventually be released.

The Ministry of Justice (MOJ) is reconfiguring the women’s prison estate, so that all women’s prisons will become resettlement prisons under the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms. This will help female offenders serve their sentence as close to home as possible while getting access to rehabilitative services they need in prison and through the gate into the community.

All offenders being located in open conditions have been risk assessed and categorised as being of low risk to the public. All visits of children to the overnight centre will also be thoroughly risk assessed beforehand.

Notes to editors

  1. Drake Hall prison is located in Eccleshall, Staffordshire, with an operational capacity of 315 prisoners.
  2. Of the 12 women’s prisons, only East Sutton Park (Kent) and Askham Grange (Yorkshire) are open prisons. Styal was the first ‘closed’ prison to develop open accommodation alongside the main establishment – opened 29 January 2015.
  3. The overnight unit at Drake Hall will be strictly for the use of children – prisoners’ partners will not be allowed to stay overnight. Drake Hall is the second prison to open such a facility.
  4. For more information contact the MOJ Press Office Newsdesk on 020 3334 3536 and follow us @MoJPress on Twitter.