What Happened at Thorn Cross Prison in 2018?

HMP Thorn Cross is a category D adult male institution for inmates with less than two years of a sentence left to serve. Operated by Her Majesty’s Prison Service, it is located in the Cheshire town of Warrington, and has an operational capacity of 381. News in 2018 included the conviction of a prison officer for misconduct, the escape of an inmate, and the withdrawal of plans to house sex offenders at the jail.

Prison Officer Exchanged Hundreds of Messages with Thorn Cross Inmate

Lauryn Joyce used Instagram, Facebook and texts to exchange more than 500 messages with an inmate while she was a prison officer at Thorn Cross, it was reported in November 2018. She talked on the phone for 50 hours with Michael Smith, who was serving a sentence for drug offences. She was given a 12-month suspended sentence at Preston Crown Court after pleading guilty to misconduct in a public office. Judge Mark Brown said: “What she did was stupid – very stupid. No prison officers should conduct themselves in that manner.”

Plans to House Sex Offenders at Thorn Cross Prison Scrapped

In August 2018, the Ministry of Justice said plans to house sex offenders at Thorn Cross Prison had been scrapped. Concerns had been raised about proposals for sex offenders to serve their sentences at the open jail, which is near a primary school. A spokesperson for the MoJ said the community’s concerns had been recognised, and “having reflected on these, and the specific concern about the immediate proximity of a primary school, we have reviewed the decision and will not progress with this change”.

Cost of Running Thorn Cross Rises

Statistics released by the Ministry of Justice showed that the cost of keeping an inmate at Thorn Cross Prison rose by 2.3 per cent, to an average of £31,221 in 20017/18. The rise reflects a trend across jails in England and Wales, where the average cost of keeping an inmate in a prison for a year was £37,543 – up 6.1 per cent from £35,271 in 2016/17. National chair of the Prison Officers’ Association Mark Fairhurst said the prison service was “in crisis”.

“Assaults on staff are at a record high and serious assaults are even worse,” he added.

“That, combined with the maintenance costs and the number of people being sent to jail means rising costs. If they reviewed the sentencing guidelines and sent less people to prison, that would help.”

Wigan Man Serving Life Sentence Absconds from Thorn Cross Prison

Damien Long, who was jailed for life for a seven-day crime spree, escaped from Thorn Cross Prison, it was reported on November 3, 2018. The 32-year-old pleaded guilty to six counts of robbery, one count of kidnap, and two counts of aggravated burglary at Liverpool Crown Court in 2009. Long’s family are appealing to him to hand himself in. A prison service spokesperson said: “Public protection is our priority so when an abscond takes place police are immediately notified and become responsible for locating the offender. Those who abscond are returned to closed prisons where they may have to serve additional time behind bars.”

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