Vicky Pryce: why her time in open prison won't be 'cushy'
East Sutton Park looks genteel, but Pryce may soon wish she was back in Holloway, says former inmate
EAST SUTTON PARK, the open jail where Vicky Pryce will serve the rest of her sentence, is "so sinister" she may soon wish she was back in Holloway prison, a former inmate warns.
Pryce was sent to Holloway last week after being convicted of perverting the course of justice after accepting speeding points from her ex-husband, Chris Huhne. She was transferred from Holloway to the open prison in Kent on Friday.
The Ministry of Justice describes the Grade II-listed 15th century building as a "pleasant mansion house overlooking the Weald of Kent". But Kate Johns, a former lawyer who spent two years at East Sutton Park after being jailed for a £6.7m fraud in 2009, told the Mail on Sunday that Pryce may well find life at the prison "suffocating".
"For an educated, middle-class woman such as Pryce the regime at an open prison – where the walls are psychological, the competitive atmosphere suffocating and the rules petty and patronising – may prove unbearable," adds Johns.
There are plenty of perks at East Sutton Park, she admits. She was given coffee and tobacco, allowed to use nail varnish and "had more than two pairs of shoes". The "formidable downside" was working on the prison farm. Eight-hour days of "back-breaking" manual labour will be hard for a woman like Pryce who is used to "firing off emails", says Johns.
She will also be challenged by "humiliating menial roles" such as taking rubbish out and cleaning toilets for which Johns was paid 2p a time.
The genteel exterior of East Sutton Park masks a culture where informing on fellow inmates is common and the staff watch prisoners' every move, says Johns. "For the first time in my sentence I became conscious of being scrutinised, to an extent that felt obsessively intrusive. Staff listened to my telephone calls and discipline was dished out for the pettiest reasons." Strip searches were "the norm".
If Pryce's time at East Sutton Park matches her own experience of open prison, says Johns, she may soon find herself longing for the "monotony" of Holloway. ·