Pucklechurch fears Ministry of Justice plan to move sex offenders into Ashfield YOI
FEARS for the future of a Pucklechurch young offenders’ institution are growing after it was announced the jail will soon house sex offenders.
HM YOI Ashfield is closing as part of wider government plans to save money and create one ‘super’ prison.
The community was already concerned that the changes had been agreed by Ministry of Justice bosses without any public consultation. They were told in January that Ashfield was to become an adult male prison but now local people have been left shocked by news that the unit will be used to keep dangerous sex offenders.
Local councillors Steve Reade and Ben Stokes (Con, Boyd Valley) carried out a survey of village opinion on the change from young offenders’ unit to adult prison. They said news that sex offenders were to be placed in Pucklechurch would come as a complete shock to villagers.
“What prison chiefs revealed has come as a complete shock to the Pucklechurch community - they have dropped a bombshell on our village,” they said in a statement.
“The responses to our survey were already showing a large majority of residents concerned about the change to a low threat level adult prison – residents will be horrified to know that dangerous adult sex offenders are to be housed at Ashfield instead.
“It is feared that some of the sex offenders who are released from Ashfield will want to settle in the local area and that thought will fill local people with dread.”
They added: “The Ashfield facility is an important local employer and so we will be urging the National Offender Management Service to come forward with alternative uses that the community would find acceptable.
“The National Offender Management Service really needs to learn lessons from its atrocious handling from the start of what is an incredibly sensitive issue.”
Thornbury and Yate MP Steve Webb said he was so concerned about the proposal he was pushing for a meeting with Justice secretary Jeremy Wright this week.
Mr Webb told the Gazette: “This has not been well handled an a lot of people are very upset.
“Most people are used to a prison there and we do not want to see jobs lots plus the premises are modern so it needs to be used.
“If it is absolutely clear that it cannot be used as a young offenders’ institution and it was to be used as a general Category C jail then fair enough.
“But there are a wide range of concerns over the wisdom of putting 400 sex offenders in one place, especially in a residential area like Pucklechurch which has been portrayed as more remote than it is.”
Ashfield, which is run by private security company Serco, currently has capacity to hold 400 young men aged between 15 and 18. Negotiations are underway between the government and Serco Group about the change of use.