A plan to place an open prison of convicted sex offenders just feet away from a primary school in England is receiving pushback.
David Keane, the head of the Cheshire Police department, said in a written statement that he has “serious concerns” about the plan to place some sex offenders in the Thorn Cross prison, which sits 20 yards away from Appleton Thorn Primary School.
The school, located in northwestern England between Liverpool and Manchester, houses children as young as three, according to the BBC. That’s one reason Keane voiced concern about the proposal.
“I haven’t been consulted regarding this decision; a decision which will have obvious implications for the local community,” Keane wrote. “I have written to the government requesting an urgent meeting to discuss why this prison has been chosen, especially considering its proximity to local housing and with it being situated directly opposite a primary school.”
It’s a decision that has caused some alarm among local residents as well, including Simon Puleston, who has four children.
“This decision needs to be reviewed further,” he told The Warrington Worldwide. “The prison is in close proximity to Appleton Thorn Primary School, two nurseries, also a further 72 new houses being built by Bloor Homes.”
Dorothy Edwards, a former councilor for the area, said it’s particularly jarring because the prisoners can leave the jail.
“Prisoners there have their own keys to their rooms,” the former politician told the BBC, “and are allowed out to catch the bus to work or for education while children arrive at the school.”
Zoe Jones, a headteacher at the school, told The Liverpool Echo that she wasn’t approached by the government — and instead learned about the decision when it became public news.
“Thorn Cross informed me as headteacher of the change to the category of prisoner at the same time that local residents received the news, July 24 2018,” she told the outlet. “... We are seeking clarification as to the change in categorization and when this will take effect.
“I will be keeping parents informed as soon as I have any more information.”
A spokeswoman for the Prison Service explained the decision in a statement to ITV, writing that “under this Government more sex offenders are being convicted and going to prison, and spending longer there.”
“The ability to test men in open conditions as they approach the end of their sentence is a critical step in this,” the statement read. “Anyone who is transferred to open conditions must pass a strict risk-assessment and can be recalled to tougher closed conditions at the first sign of any concern.”
There’s been a 20-percent uptick in convictions for sex offenders since 2010 in the country, according to data reviewed by the Warrington Worldwide. That amounts to an increase of about 4,000 people in prisons for sex offenses.