Prisoners who have committed a wide range of serious crimes will be allowed out into the community when Downview re-opens as a rehabilitation prison later this year.

Downview, in Sutton Lane, close to Banstead, was closed as a women's prison last October, but is due to re-open for 355 adult men - mainly from Greater London - as a closed Category C resettlement prison in the autumn.

The decision to change the prison was taken "as there is significant surplus accommodation within the female estate", according to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ).

A spokeswoman said: "The design and location of Downview makes it suitable to be a closed Category C resettlement prison which is focused on helping offenders - particularly those who have been serving longer sentences - prepare for release.

"We have reviewed the settlement prison network to ensure that prisoners in every area will benefit from the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms by having access to continuous rehabilitative service throughout custody and into the community."

Resettlement prisons are designed to help prisoners, particularly those who have been serving longer sentences, prepare for release. 

As part of this, some prisoners are able to go out to training or work from the prison.

Last month, the MoJ submitted a planning application to Reigate and Banstead Council to build a new education centre at the prison. 

It has said staffing levels are still being finalised but will "be in line with other similar prisons".

The MoJ emphasised that Downview would not be an open prison and there are no plans to "remove or downgrade any perimeter security".

The spokeswoman added: "Prisoners will not be able to abscond. 

"Any release will only be granted under the terms of the new tighter released on temporary licence (ROTL) arrangements."

The MoJ said prisoners will only be allowed out for a specific purpose, such as gaining work experience, and they will have to wear GPS electronic tags "when the technology becomes available".

When deciding on whether to release prisoners on ROTL, governors must consider whether it represents unacceptable risks of harm, reoffending and absconding, the impact on the victim and public confidence in the administration of justice.

The MoJ said that in 2012, there were around five occasions out of every 100,000 releases when prisoners were arrested on suspicion of committing another offence.

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