Category Archives: Juveniles
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, Nick Hardwick, in a report on Hindley Prison published today (25th April) says:
HM Young Offender Institution Hindley is a large establishment just outside Wigan with the capacity to hold 440 boys and young people aged 15 to 18. At the time of this inspection it was only just over one-third full.
First impressions are of a pretty bleak, prison-like environment and the obvious youth of many of those held. However, the inspection found commendable efforts to soften the environment, and some determined efforts to address some of the damage that had been done to these young people before they arrived at Hindley and reduce the damage they do to others. The arrangements for a young person’s first few days at Hindley were particularly good – although, as at other establishments, needlessly undermined by the NOMS requirement that every new arrival should be strip searched when they first arrived.
Many of the young people arriving at Hindley had poor previous experience of education – almost half told us they were 14 or younger when they last left school; nine out of 10 had been excluded; eight out of 10 had played truant. So it is a tribute to the establishment that the quality of education and activities was good, and that young people made good progress and obtained qualifications. It was very welcome that speech and language therapy was available when required. Standards of behaviour were much better than that seen in some schools. More could have been done to enable young people to get real work experience in the community, and it was frustrating that half left Hindley without a confirmed education or training place – threatening to waste the progress they had made there.
In other respects, the work to prepare young people for release was good, and better than we normally see. Few young people left without suitable accommodation to go to, and there was good support with family relationships, substance misuse and health issues, and managing money. Effective work was carried out throughout the sentence to address young people’s offending behaviour. The Willow unit provided necessary intensive support to a small number of young people with the most complex needs, although the effectiveness of the therapeutic approach adopted risked being undermined by the length of time these young people spent locked in their cells.
Although there had been efforts in some wings to make the environment more appropriate for young people, in others it remained bleak and austere. The establishment was generally clean and tidy and most cells were in reasonable condition. Most young people had about nine hours out of their cells each day and a decent amount of association time, although insufficient opportunity to work off energy exercising in the open air. There were concerns that imminent changes to the core day arising from a central directive might reduce time out of cell at Hindley – this would be very regrettable.
Relationships between staff and young people were generally good and some young people spoke very highly of the officers who dealt with them. I witnessed examples of some real kindness and effective care – one member of staff had somehow got a horse into the establishment for one very troubled and challenging boy from the Traveller community to care for. As he worked on the horse, she worked on the boy – to much greater effect than more conventional interventions might have achieved. However, we also heard persistent, consistent and credible complaints about the abusive behaviour of a small number of officers. The governor had taken robust action when inappropriate conduct by staff had been identified. These generally good relationships were underpinned by sound processes. Management of diversity and complaints was good, and health care and the chaplaincy both provided very good services.
Nevertheless, despite these real strengths, Hindley was not sufficiently safe. On average, there was a fight or assault almost every day, and some of these were very serious. We were not assured the establishment had an effective grip on what was happening. The number of perpetrators and victims on violence reduction or support measures was not consistent with the number of incidents, and data were not used effectively to identify and address patterns and trends. Investigations into some alleged bullying incidents were not sufficiently rigorous. The number of adjudications and lesser ‘minor reports’ were both much higher than we see elsewhere, with 1,800 adjudications in the first 10 months of 2012, and almost 3,000 minor reports in the same period. Some of these incidents could have been better dealt with more informally.
Use of force was also very high, although much did not involve full control and restraint. Staff sometimes put themselves in harm’s way to prevent injury to young people. Governance of the use of force had improved after some young people had been badly hurt two years previously. The segregation unit was cramped and run-down, and although relationships with staff were generally good, the regime was inadequate, especially for the few young people held there for lengthy periods.
Like all juvenile prisons, Hindley held some very unhappy young people. There had been a very sad self-inflicted death at the beginning of 2012, and the establishment had taken early action as a result of the findings of an investigation into the incident. The number of self-harm incidents remained high (although relatively low level) and, despite the reduction in the population, the number of incidents each month had grown by 18% over the previous year. However, we were not assured that the drive to learn and implement lessons from the death in 2012 was being sustained, and some staff were not clear about their responsibilities in this area.
We were concerned that the sheer volume of violent and self-harm incidents threatened to be overwhelming. For the most part, individual incidents were dealt with well but there needed to be more complete strategic oversight of the entire picture that made the links between bullying and self-harm and kept responses to both perpetrators and victims under review. The safeguarding committee with its external membership appeared to be best placed to do this.
Even only one-third full, and despite very good work, HMYOI Hindley illustrates the difficulty such establishments have in discharging their most fundamental responsibility – keeping the young people they hold safe. There has been a suggestion that as the number of young people in custody declines, those who continue to be held will be a more concentrated mix of the most challenging and unhappy young people. Other recent inspections of YOIs have also identified establishments having much greater difficulty in keeping young people safe.
The YJB, ministers and other policymakers should consider this very carefully as they plan the future development of the youth custody estate.
Mark Leech, editor of Converse the national prisoners newspaper for England and Wales said it was a ‘deeply troubling report’.
“No one reading this deeply troubling report can fail to be dismayed by the seriously high levels of self-harm and the high levels of use of force by staff.
“The fact that some rogue officers appear to be abusing prisoners is a matter which the police should be required to investigate – Hindley holds some very damaged young boys and young adults, it is vital they are not subject to physical abuse by staff who think they can get away with it.”
Seventeen-year-olds suspected of crime are wrongly being treated as adults and losing vital protection when they are arrested, the High Court was told today.
A teenager backed by several children’s rights campaign groups is seeking a landmark ruling that, at 17, young people should still be treated as children when taken into custody.
This would entitle them to contact their parents or seek advice and assistance from another appropriate adult.
HC, a sixth-form college student from south-east London, is challenging decisions by the Home Secretary and the police to insist in most cases on continuing to treat them as adults.
The parents of a 17-year-old who committed suicide days after being held in custody were at the High Court in London to support his case.
HC and a friend were arrested by Metropolitan Police officers on a 57 bus outside Tooting Broadway underground station on the afternoon of April 19, 2012.
Both teenagers were handcuffed, cautioned and taken to Battersea police station.
HC, who was later found to be innocent of any crime, gave his date of birth but his request that his mother be informed of his arrest was refused, two judges were told.
Caoilfhionn Gallagher, appearing for HC, said he was of good character but detained for a period of over 12 hours without the assistance of an appropriate adult.
For many hours his mother and family had no idea of his whereabouts, Ms Gallagher told Lord Justice Moses and Mr Justice Kenneth Parker.
Lawyers for Home Secretary Theresa May are arguing the challenge is “unfounded” and Mrs May has acted “rationally and lawfully”.
They also say the changes HC and his family want “are not currently considered necessary or appropriate”.
Providing appropriate adults for all 17-year-olds would also be likely to involve “substantial cost to the public purse”.
Ms Gallagher told the court an “overwhelming” number of bodies working with children were accusing the Home Secretary and the police of “getting this wrong”.
Ms Gallagher said there was an anomaly in the codes of practice issued by the Home Secretary under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) which denies children’s rights to all 17-year-olds when arrested or subjected to questioning.
This was despite all under-18s being recognised as children under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and under other domestic laws.
The PACE rules had repeatedly led to international criticism, including from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, said Ms Gallagher.
It had also been criticised by HM Inspectorate of Prisons, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and other domestic agencies including the Care Quality Commission and the National Appropriate Adult Network (NAAN).
The Children’s Commissioner for England, Dr Maggie Atkinson, was supporting HC’s case and described the current position as a “violation of children’s rights” and a breach of the UK’s international treaty obligations.
Today’s challenge has been brought with support from Just for Kids Law, Coram Children’s Legal Centre and the Howard League for Penal Reform.
The Howard League said that every year 75,000 17-year-olds are held in police custody.
More than a third of juvenile offenders went on to commit another offence within a year, figures showed today.
But in some parts of England and Wales, this rose to almost half, according to the latest Ministry of Justice (MoJ) figures.
Almost 36,000 of the 110,000 young offenders aged under 18 who were cautioned, convicted or released from custody between July 2009 and June 2010 committed another offence within 12 months.
They committed more than 100,000 further offences between them, an average of almost three each, the figures showed.
But the reoffending rates varied considerably in youth offending teams across England and Wales – from Merthyr Tydfil, in South Wales, where 48.8% of the 160 offenders committed a further offence, to Bracknell Forest, in Berkshire, where the figure was 23.3% of 103 offenders.
Officials said a large part of this variability “reflects the mix of offenders” who are managed by the different teams.
The figures also showed that, since 2000, reoffending among juveniles who received a community penalty rose by 5.5%, while falling by 7.5% for those who received a custodial sentence.
The Prison Reform Trust, said: “The number of children committing offences over the 12 months covered by the report fell by a fifth, the number reoffending by 17%, and the number of further offences by 15%, significant reductions which reflect the success of concerted efforts by police, youth offending teams and others to tackle youth crime.
“Marked geographical variations in reoffending indicate that there are lessons to be learned from high-performing local authorities and show we can and must do more to help children out of trouble.”
A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: “Overall, reoffending is falling and the majority of criminals do not go on to commit further crimes. However, we believe reoffending rates are still too high.
“We are introducing reforms to break the cycle of youth offending including robust intervention, increasing the use of restorative justice and supporting local programmes which better tackle the root causes of youth crime and reoffending.
“We also want to free up practitioners to give them greater discretion in tackling offending.”
PUBLISHED 18/4/2012. 00.01
This is the third in a series of inspections at Cookham Wood since it became a juvenile facility
in 2008. The regularity of inspection is, in part, a reflection of serious concerns that the Youth
Justice Board and this inspectorate have had about the establishment as it has sought to cope
with the challenges of its changed responsibilities. This inspection was commissioned by the
Youth Justice Board.
In 2009 we found a place that we described as frightening and unsafe. In 2010 we found
improvements but characterised the establishment as being off the critical list but still needing
intensive care. This inspection found that Cookham Wood was continuing to make good
progress. We found that outcomes for young people were all now reasonably good across our
four tests of a healthy prison.
Young people felt safer than they had when we last inspected and safer against comparators
in similar establishments. The number of violent and anti-social incidents remained too high,
but staff were now much more confident in using violence reduction and behaviour
management procedures. There was good consultation with young people and a good and
developing understanding of violence and bullying issues through the analysis of meaningful
data. Mediation was increasingly being used and it was encouraging that use of force was
Developments in the Phoenix Unit, a facility for the most disruptive, which were still embryonic
when we last visited, had progressed well. The unit had a greater clarity of purpose and the
quality of individual case management was reasonable. Arrangements to support safeguarding
and child protection were effective and robust but would have benefited from greater
engagement by the local authority.
Accommodation at Cookham Wood remained far from ideal but wings were now cleaner and
standards were better. Some of the limitations of the accommodation had been mitigated by
better staff supervision and, despite some ambivalence among some young people, the quality
of relationships between young people and staff were good. Staff were more confident and
some innovative local training was developing their understanding of, and skills working with,
young people. Regular surveys of young people, consultation forums and effective use of
advocacy services were taken seriously and were also having a positive impact.
Work to support and promote diversity was generally good with a broad approach that
demonstrated attention to all the key strands. Work with foreign national young people was
improved with better cooperation with the UK Border Agency and innovative support on offer
through a foreign national youth club. Complaints were well managed and health care,
particularly mental health care, was much improved.
There had been a broad improvement in the quality of the regime on offer. Most young people
had a reasonable amount of time out of cell, although arrangements for exercise in the open
air were quite limited. Access to education and training was good and, for the individual, well
planned. New courses had been introduced and standards were good. There was however,
more scope to develop progression opportunities in learning, particularly as it applied to those
held for longer periods of time. Access to PE was good.
Work to support resettlement was similarly improving. There was a need for better coordinated
care planning for young people with substance misuse issues and for those young people
moving on to the adult estate. However, reintegration arrangements were generally based on
effective needs analysis and sound training planning. The growing confidence with which the
establishment was addressing resettlement issues was evident in work such as the
development of an interesting resettlement consortium with local authorities aimed at the
promotion of training and employment. There was also some effective use of temporary
release to support reintegration and the appointment of a youth worker, again linked in to the
community, was a creative way of supporting personal and social development.
This is an encouraging report. Cookham Wood has come a long way in three years but there is
no room for complacency and further improvement is still required in all the areas we
inspected. The establishment is, however, well led and has a renewed sense of confidence.
The governor and her staff should be commended for what they have achieved so far.
HM CHIEF INSPECTOR