Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Clearsprings.

Clearsprings were a private company contracted by the Ministry of Justice to run private bail hostels to house prisoners who had been released early or those on bail awaiting trial or sentence. They ran about 200 bail hostels in the UK and two of them are in Wrecsam, one in Old Mold Road, Gwersyllt, and one in Holt Road, Wrecsam.

No one knew that the premises were bail hostels, even though Clearsprings were supposed to notify Police, Probation and the Local Authority, although the Police claimed they had no knowledge. The most important thing was that local people had no knowledge of the hostels, the first they knew about it was being woken in the middle of the night by fighting or Police attendance. Neighbours found it difficult to contact Clearsprings and when they did they were less than helpful.

The big question was however, who were these people and what were the offences they had committed?, did they pose a risk to the local community? nobody knew, but one thing we can be sure of was that they weren't supervised, even though the offenders were either on early release or bail conditions there was nobody from Clearsprings present 24/7 to ensure they complied with conditions. I have long had concerns about Clearsprings since an ex Police colleague of mine got a job with them and after a day of training left because of concerns he had regarding the role and responsibilities, especially around a lack of supervision.

Needless to say that it was only a matter of time before something serious would happen and this occurred in a hostel in Stockton, Teeside, when two inmates of a Clearspring hostel murdered a third and a judge criticised controls at the hostel. I suppose we should count our blessings that nothing similar happened in Wrecsam.

The Government would seek to reassure us that prisoners who are released early are properly supervised and those that pose a risk are assessed and supervised by a multi agency public protection panel (MAPPA and MARAC), but clearly this is not the case as this untimely dealth in Stockton testifies.

The good news out of all this is that the Prisons Minister, Angela Eagle has now re tendered the contract and awarded it to Stonham, a charity which specialises in housing vulnerable adults, let's hope that the terms of the contract ensure that each hostel has 24/7 supervision and that local residents are informed. I will seek reassurances from Angela Eagle to that effect.

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