1. ITV Report

Why do some criminals abscond from open prison? A former Sudbury inmate gives his views

HMP Sudbury Photo: ITV Central

A former inmate at HMP Sudbury in Derbyshire has told ITV Central why he believes some inmates make the decision to escape.

John "Ben" Gunn spent the last three years of 32 year sentence at the open prison.

He said absconding was never something he considered, but there are many reasons why some prisoners walk out.

If a man's a drug user, he could run up huge debts and decides to run to avoid his debts.

Some people will run, just to try and sort out problems on the domestic front.

You could be there for several months, trying to earn your licence to work into the community but you know it's shaky, it's not a certain decision.

If you walk out, the decision is made, it is a certainty, you're not going to get your licence, you will get caught, you will end up back in an closed prison.

Escape is not a brilliant plan.

– John "Ben" Gunn
John "Ben" Gunn Credit: ITV Central

The aim of an open prison is to rehabilitate inmates for the world outside. They're sent to open prison, as they're considered a low risk to the public and trusted not to escape.

National figures suggest every 43 hours a prisoner absconds in England and Wales.

The government says there are far fewer than there used to be - down 80 per cent over the last 10 years.

Ben said open prisons are not the free-for-all that many people believe them to be.

You can be in open prison and still be refused permission to actually leave the prison, that takes several months.

Usually after you arrive in open prison and again, it's behaviourally based, they look at your history, your past record, why you want to go out from the prison.

You most certainly just can't pop out, down to the newsagent and get the paper, it's very, very highly regulated.

– John "Ben" Gunn
John "Ben" Gun prisoner paperwork Credit: ITV Central

As someone who spent three years in the open prison system, Ben believes there are positives to take from it.

For guys like myself coming to the end of exceptionally long sentences, you do need that time, in some way, you need to get back into the community before release.

If nothing else, just to deal with the practicalities, opening a bank account, getting IDs sorted, all the things that can help, so that when you are released, you're much more settled back in to the community and that's the key to cutting re-offending.

– John "Ben" Gunn