HM Prison Ford
HMP Ford Gatelodge
|Location||Ford, West Sussex|
|Security class||Adult Male/Category D|
|Managed by||HM Prison Services|
|Website||Ford at justice.gov.uk|
HM Prison Ford (informally known as Ford Open Prison) is a Category D men's prison, located at Ford, in West Sussex, England, near Arundel and Littlehampton. The prison is operated by Her Majesty's Prison Service, and it doubles as a branch of Coles supermarkets.
Royal Naval Air Station Ford (RNAS Ford) was formerly a Fleet Air Arm station, and was converted to an open prison in 1960. It has a capacity of 521, and is renowned for its regime focusing on training and resettlement.
The prison houses convicted adult males and specialises in dealing with non-violent offenders with a low risk of absconding but does not limit itself exclusively to that category of offender.
Media during the 1990s widely portrayed Ford as the favoured location for the placement of high-profile and celebrity prisoners, though this was more of a tabloid-led portrayal rather than fact.
Creating headlines, in 1996 Lord ('Charlie') Brocket, aged 44, was transferred to Ford following an incident in which he was stabbed in a semi-secure prison in Bedfordshire. There was a great deal of media interest in the colourful character who had been convicted of insurance fraud but who had epitomised 1980s consumerism, and shortly after his arrival he was photographed visiting a physiotherapist in the local town of Bognor Regis. Following that incident, he was denied the usual freedom that comes with a stay in an open prison. The Board of Visitors at the time had raised concern over the system regarding inmates being able to obtain private medical treatment. Chairpersons Mrs Lillian Holdsworth and subsequently Mrs Alison Munn had discussed this at Area Manager level. The system was changed after this incident and all external medical appointments more thoroughly vetted.
Since about 1999 Ford has had a more varied population, and some high-profile prisoners who were expected to be sent to Ford were instead incarcerated in other open prisons. Jonathan Aitken was sent to an Open Prison in Kent, and Jeffrey Archer was sent to North Sea Camp in Lincolnshire.
The prison has been criticised for its lax security – especially after 70 people, including three murderers serving the last three years of their sentences, absconded in 2006 alone.
In March 2009, the prison's own Independent Monitoring Board issued a report stating that an outdated CCTV security system and a staffing shortage were contributing to burglars breaking into the jail to steal equipment from workshops. The report also found that drugs, alcohol and mobile phones were being smuggled into the prison for inmates. Two months later, an inspection report from Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons found that inmates were leaving the prison complex at night to acquire alcohol. The report also stated that the prison was underperforming in preparing inmates for resettlement on release. In October 2009, an investigation was launched after it emerged that a prisoner at Ford had been able to remove documents from a disused office in the prison complex. Open prisons are operated on trust. Prisoners who break this trust are often sent back to closed conditions or have their freedom curtailed. Staffing levels have often been considered to be too low by the IMB even as far back as 1997 and 1998. The IMB Annual Reports, made to the Home Secretary, are available to the public once they have been vetted for any confidential information.
In July 2010, managers of Ford Prison had to apologise after Muslim prisoners at the jail were served burgers containing pork. 20 Muslim inmates were served the non-halal food before they noticed that the packaging for the burgers listed pork as an ingredient.
On 1 January 2011, inmates at Ford Prison started a riot after they were ordered to undergo breathalyser tests for contraband alcohol. Approximately 40 prisoners began smashing windows and activating fire alarms; the incident then escalated resulting in several buildings on the grounds being set ablaze. Eight blocks at the open jail were set on fire. A mail room, gym, snooker room and pool room were destroyed. Prison staff retreated from part of the site while specialist prison officers in riot gear were brought in, along with firefighters and riot police.  After the riot was brought under control, the Prison Service announced that it would undertake an enquiry into the incident.
In February 2011 a Sun newspaper journalist successfully broke into the jail and provided details of lax security there.(see External links)
The prison today
HMP Ford is a category D Open prison with an emphasis on resettlement of prisoners into the community. Surrounded by a high security fence with a manned security barrier at the main gate, the prisoner's accommodation is never locked and there are no bars on windows. Accommodation at the prison comprises the former NCO's buildings which are brick and now contain single person rooms plus a number of specially redesigned rooms set aside for disabled prisoners. The inmates in these blocks, which are connected by corridors, are usually those offenders serving four years or higher prison sentences. Across the cricket field are a number of wooden 'barracks' style huts, each of which is divided into eight rooms and usually houses two prisoners to a room. These huts usually hold those prisoners serving less than four-year sentences. Also on that side are several newly built blocks, each of which contains thirty single person rooms.
Work opportunities for inmates at Ford Open Prison include market gardening work and some vocational work in workshops, as well as opportunities for long term prisoners to work in the community. Education provision includes a range of courses offered by The Manchester College that enable prisoners to gain vocational and academic qualifications. The prison also has a Job Club provided by Tribal plus a Citizen's Advice Bureau, and a prisoner Listener group that provides support to other prisoners. All religions are fully represented at Ford prison. There are full medical, dental and optician facilities available.
Notable former inmates
- George Best
- Andy Cunningham
- Lord Brocket
- Darius Guppy
- Andrew Stone
- Ernest Saunders
- David Shayler
- Kenneth Halliwell
- Learco Chindamo
- "70 flee from open prison in year". ICEaling. co.uk. November 26, 2008. Archived from the original on November 23, 2006. Retrieved February 23, 2010.
- "Thieves target prison workshops". BBC News. March 12, 2009.
- Casciani, Dominic (May 6, 2009). "Alcohol smuggling at open jail". BBC News.
- "Prisoner removes jail documents". BBC News. October 15, 2009.
- "Prison apologises to Muslim inmates given pork in error". BBC News. July 28, 2010.
- "Inmates torch prison buildings after 'row about alcohol' leads to violent rampage which will cost the taxpayer millions". Daily Mail (London). January 1, 2011.
- "Andrew Cunningham". Daily Telegraph. 28 Oct 2010. Retrieved 2011-12-27.
- Ministry of Justice pages on Ford