Criminals serving prison sentences could soon be allowed out into the community if a HMP Downview is made into an open prison.

HMP Downview, in Banstead, was a women's prison but is closed as it is renovated to be made into a men's prison as part of Government reforms.

In its previous guise it was a closed prison, meaning serving prisoners were not allowed to leave, but the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has said it can not rule out it being an open prison when it reopens in October.

The news comes in the same month a convicted robber known as the 'Skull Cracker' was able to abscond from open prison HMP Standford Hill on the Isle of Sheppy prompting a large-scale manhunt.

The escape of the Skull Cracker, real name Michael Wheatley, has prompted Prime Minister David Cameron to announce a review of procedures at open prisons.

But despite this the MoJ said Downview could still become an open prison - leading to concerns among Sutton councillors and even prison staff.

When asked about the chances of HMP Downview becoming a category D prison, an MoJ spokesman said: "No decision has been made. Nothing has been ruled out."

One Downview worker, who asked not to be named, said: "We're in the dark.

"I did not know there was any chance of it being an open prison but I heard some rumours and I'm worried that they aren't telling us otherwise.

"I do not have anything against open prisons, but I think people should be told if that it what is going to happen."

Sutton South Councillor Tony Shields said: "I'm very, very concerned about this and I will be campaigning to make sure it does not happen.

"I'm profoundly against any plans to have an open prison on that site. It is a very big concern - especially with regard to what happened recently with the skull cracker.

"To run the risk of a convicted offender escaping into the Sutton community is unacceptable."

In a category D or open prison, which are sometimes known as training prisons, inmates can be allowed out to work in the community or even take home leave if they are assessed as being low risk.

Would you welcome Downview becoming an open prison?

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