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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 October 2006, 21:30 GMT 22:30 UK
'Review' of sex offenders worry
Prescoed open prison
Nine prisoners have absconded from Prescoed in recent months
The UK Government has agreed to look into the concerns of people who say sex offenders should not be sent to an open prison in Monmouthshire.

Nine people have escaped from Prescoed open prison in Usk in the last four months, including two child rapists.

MP and AM David Davies, Mayor of Usk Kay Peacock, and other councillors met prisons minister Gerry Sutcliffe in London on Thursday.

Mr Davies said the minister "admitted investigations are needed".

The Home Office has said all prisoners moved to open prisons were carefully vetted beforehand.

After the 45-minute meeting, Mr Davies said: "I feel that this meeting was the first step on a long road to a common-sense policy and am cautiously optimistic that, in the long term, we may see a change in Home Office thinking on this matter.

"The minister listened to us and acknowledged the legitimacy of our concerns."

The most recent absconder from Prescoed was convicted robber Barry Francis Bowyer, 32, who walked out of Prescoed hours after his arrival there last Thursday.

He was recaptured a day later in nearby Newport. In July, convicted paedophiles John Elms, 34, and Martin Aspinall, 46, absconded from Prescoed.

They were on the run for two days before being taken back into custody.

'Public safety'

Since 2004, some sex offenders have been housed in open prisons as they near the end of their sentence.

Thursday's meeting at the Home Office was a chance for Monmouthshire politicians to express their concerns to Mr Sutcliffe over the policy of sending sex offenders to Prescoed.

Afterwards Mr Davies said: "It was disquieting to learn from an official that housing sex offenders in Prescoed is a necessary test to determine whether they can live within the boundaries dictated to them.

"To me, any "test" which puts peoples' lives on the line and makes them feel afraid and threatened in their own homes is not a test that should be carried out in Monmouthshire, or indeed anywhere.

"This is gross neglect of public safety and must end."

The Home Office has said that housing some prisoners in open jails are best for the community and the prisoner.

It added that any sex offender sent to Prescoed had been properly assessed beforehand.

Prescoed prison, with an operational capacity of 170, was built in the 1930s.

Offenders are sent there while they are being rehabilitated before release.

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