A prison threw a party for inmates and their families and laid on a hot buffet and live music.

Prison officers are furious and are demanding to know what the authorities plan to lay on for the inmates' victims.

Ford Open Prison opened its gates to families and friends who joined 45 inmates for the five-hour festivities.

A steel band was hired and a bouncy castle was brought in for inmates' children.

The event cost hundreds of pounds.

One angry officer said: "It was a joke. Staff were taken off other duties to cover the event.

"It was like a holiday camp - anyone visiting would never suspect this was a prison.

"These are criminals in here and we're wondering what their victims think about it.

"Nothing was laid on for them."

But governors at the prison near Arundel defended the event.

Paul Laxton, deputy governor, said: "People don't understand what we are about.

"This was an opportunity for 45 prisoners to spend five hours with their families so they could have some quality time with their children.

"In some cases, that is something they have not been able to do for years.

"It was a chance for inmates and their families to meet in a civilised way and the behaviour of everyone was exemplary.

"We were really delighted and everyone enjoyed it.

"We had families thanking us as they left for allowing children to spend time with their fathers.

"One person said, Now he knows what it is to have a daddy again'.

"It was really heart warming."

The event, billed as a Family Party, was held in the prison's visitors' hall on October 28.

The senior prison officer agreed the party was successful: "Yes, it was smashing but it was wrong.

"Why should there be rewards like this for criminals?

"Staff are up in arms with the management."

The Argus reported last year how inmates at the category B prison were jumping over a perimeter fence to roam freely and stock up on alcohol.

There were allegations that drug-taking was commonplace and unauthorised mobile phones and pornographic DVDs were being smuggled in.

The Prison Service launched an investigation into how the prisoners were able to escape through a hole in fencing surrounding the 114-acre site.

The Argus reported in August how Ford had been saved from a private sector takeover.

The Prison Service decided against allowing firms to bid to run the prison.

However, staff were warned to make major improvements after concerns about inmates absconding, failing drugs tests and not doing enough work.

Governor Fiona Radford was told the Prison Service was happy enough to keep the prison's management in-house instead of ordering performance testing.

Ford would still be subject to a 12-month review.