What is it about?

We looked at a sample of people in 'open' prisons, i.e., longer term prisoners in the final stage before their full release. Our aim was to understand what predicted the recall of prisoners back to higher security conditions (failure). Failure included absconding while on temporary release; security breach while in open conditions; or re-offending.

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Why is it important?

The failure of prisoners in custody is costly. However rare, other prisoners or the public may be harmed by the negative event. The turnover of prisoners due to failure also has a negative impact on the culture and reputation of the institution. Finally in the case of security breach or technical violation, the prisoner may experience the failure as unfair process, and it may have negative effects on their rehabilitation.


Open prisons are a vital bridge between custody and full release. They provide an opportunity to support a prisoner's adjustment in the transition to once again living independently and alongside the general public. We hope the research presented in this article showcases the strengths and areas for improvement in work in this important setting. Fewer than one-third of prisoners 'failed', yet most of these were recall due to technical breaches. We argue that minimising an over-zealous trigger to recall, using the criteria and approaches we outline, would benefit the prison environment, the prisoners, staff, and general public - so helping reduce future offending behaviour.

University of Portsmouth

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Monitoring prisoners preparing for release: Who ‘fails’ in open prison conditions?, European Journal of Criminology, July 2023, SAGE Publications, DOI: 10.1177/14773708231183570.
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