A prison monitoring board has questioned the point of locking up sex offenders at Littlehey since there was no requirement to reduce risk of reoffending - leaving some inmates content to stay in their cells watching TV or reading since they “found life easy”.
In its latest annual report the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) for Littlehey, near St Neots, branded as "woefully inadequate in many areas" the prison's approach to release, with 415 inmates being let out directly from the jail last year with little preparation, including some who had no idea where they would be staying that night.
Littlehey is Europe's largest prison for men convicted of sex offences, holding around 1,200 inmates, nearly half of whom are aged 50 or over, and the board said it was "disappointed" at the lack of activities aimed at the older prisoners.
It said the nature of the prison population meant Littlehey should be a leader in dealing with elderly sex offenders, but added: "Sadly, this is not the case."
Harry Chandler, IMB chairman, said: "Compared to a typical local prison of a similar size, HMP Littlehey is safe and decent and the board acknowledge the successful social care provision and the compassionate approach to end of life care.
"However, we are disappointed with the lack of suitable facilities specifically designed to help rehabilitate the older prisoners. Effectively it is a 'double sentence' for these men."
The report said: "The board questions the purpose of imprisonment when approximately 40 per cent of prisoners with determinate sentences are in full or part-time denial or are assessed as low risk using the risk assessment matrix RM 2000.
"There are no nationally accredited interventions to meet their need nor are they monitored on their risk factors to evidence either a reduction in the likelihood of reoffending or a reduction in risk of harm."
The report said: "The national prison system does not measure reductions in risk, so there is no incentive for either the prisoner or the prison to achieve such a reduction.
"The board has encountered men over 65 who have simply stayed on the wing, in their cell and read books or watched TV. They 'found life easy' in their words but have at no time been challenged on the factors that led to their crime and, therefore, have not been encouraged to identify and work on those factors to reduce that risk."
It said many of the activities aimed at older inmates, including the chance to work, had closed and that there were around 80 wheelchair users, with just 30 chairs available, although some prisoners had their own.
The report said the Government organisation set up to replace collapsed services organisation Carillion had not brought any improvements, impacting on prisoners' lives, putting them at unnecessary health and safety risks as well as affecting basic decency standards.
The board said it was "shocked and all taxpayers should be outraged" at the cost of hiring equipment to replace that which had broken down, including £270,000 a year pro-rata on freezer units and £50,000 on blast chillers.
However, the prison had the top performing PE department in the prison service with highly-motivated staff, including dedicated sessions for the elderly.
Huntingdon MP Jonathan Djanogly said: "I am pleased that Independent Monitoring Board have highlighted these issues and I intend to look into them.
"I am delighted that the Government is taking penal reform so seriously with the announcement of £2.5 billion to create modern, efficient prisons, which will include an additional 10,000 prison spaces."