Sex offenders will fill planned prison in Pucklechurch
SEX offenders will make up "100 per cent" of the target population of a proposed adult prison, neighbouring villagers have been told.
Ashfield Young Offenders' Institution in Pucklechurch is set to become a unit for adult male sex offenders from July.
More than 50 angry residents attended the village's community centre last night to air their concerns about the move.
Brian Pollett, a department director with the National Offender Management Service said it would be "criminal" not to properly use the modern facility, which has been only half-full for the past 18 months.
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He said the new unit would hold 400 prisoners but require fewer staff members, because adult prisons require less educational training.
Mr Pollett tried to assure residents that they would not notice any difference in their village and said released offenders would either be collected by family or bussed by prison staff to Bristol, to catch a train.
But Malcolm Watson, a parish councillor, said: "The sex offenders will be locked away but they may have visitors who may be of the same inclination, and frankly we don't want a population of would-be sex offenders coming to our village."
Another woman, who said she lived near the prison with her young family, added: "I am petrified at the idea of paedophiles, rapists and sex offenders living near me."
Answering a question regarding what percentage of inmates would be sex offenders Mr Pollett responded: "Virtually the whole population. There may be a small percentage of vulnerable prisoners who have not committed sexual offences but the target would be 100 per cent."
Mr Pollett said the plans, which are being discussed with jail operator Serco, would almost certainly happen but promised to pass residents' concerns to the Ministry of Justice.
He said: "To leave Ashfield standing empty would be a criminal waste of an excellent facility."
Brian Anderson, director at Ashfield, said he believed the reduction of staff at the site would alleviate any current parking issues.
Thornbury and Yate MP Steve Webb, who has been opposed to the decision, said: "Local residents were clearly concerned about what they heard tonight and have not been properly consulted. Before this process goes any further there must be a real dialogue and other alternatives for the prison must be looked at."