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Thursday, May 20, 1999 Published at 18:32 GMT 19:32 UK


Paedophiles to be housed in prisons

Nottingham Prison is being used as a test ground

Paedophiles and other high risk offenders may be housed in flats inside prisons to prevent them re-offending, the Home Office has announced.

Nearby resident Ray Cockerill: I can't imagine a more short-sighted decision
The aim is to keep a track of offenders still deemed a risk to the public after they have finished serving their sentences.

The government is to test the idea in a pilot project at Nottingham Prison. If the pilot is successful, it could be extended nationally.

The idea comes after intense public concerns over a number of paedophiles who have been released into the community despite being deemed likely to re-offend.

There have been a string of public protests up and down the country outside police stations and other buildings where paedophiles are thought to be living.


Nottingham Prison is situated in a residential area and is close to a junior and infants' school and a maternity hospital.

The BBC's Jon Silverman: "This decision met with hostility from the Prison Officers Association"
It is reported that office blocks in the prison are being converted into flats for both serving and former prisoners.

Officials at the prison say the project has been agreed by the Home Office and the Prison Service, but some details still have to be worked out.

It is thought that former prisoners will be advised that living at the prison could offer them protection from angry members of the public.

They may be asked to sign a tenants' agreement and guards could be assigned to keep an eye on them.

Residents may also be escorted in and out of the prison and banned from having guests.

A spokeswoman from the Home Office said: "Office accommodation at HMP Nottingham is in the process of being converted into living accommodation available to house high risk offenders and ex-offenders, anyone who may pose a risk to the community.

"We are still establishing how it is going to operate. The paramount measure is that the public are protected."

Short-term solution

People living in the Nottingham Prison area are opposed to the idea.

The National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (Nacro) said the plan might work in the short term to aid the resettlement of offenders in the community.

"But it will not work long term. It will be very expensive and not very effective," said a spokesman.

[ image: Child abuse has brought much recent media attention]
Child abuse has brought much recent media attention
"They will either have to be kept in prison for life or released at some point. They need adequate treatment programmes and work towards resettling them in the community."

He added that there had been a lot of recent legislation focusing on sex offenders, for example, the Sex Offenders Order.

This ensured that sex offenders who had been released into the community could be locked up if they were giving reasonable cause for a caution, for example, if they were hanging around a school.

"This legislation is not very well understood by the public. The danger of these people committing offences is very minor, but public concern is very understandable," said the spokesman.

Meanwhile, a government body is expected to say that criminal record checks by employers to stop paedophiles working with children could be counter-productive.

The Better Regulation Task Force is expected to warn next week that over-reliance on record checking could also lead to social exclusion and increased bureaucracy.

About a third of men have a criminal record and record-checking may lower their chances of finding a job, the report is likely to say.

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