Seven G4S Officers Suspended at Young Offender Institution After Secret Filming

medwaystcSeven members of staff at a facility for young offenders run by security group G4S have been suspended amid allegations of abuse and mistreatment of youngsters.

Police in Kent are also understood to have been alerted to the claims of “unnecessary use of force and the use of improper language” at Medway Secure Training Centre in Rochester.

It has been reported that staff punched and slapped some teenagers held at the facility and also allegedly boasted about using inappropriate techniques to restrain youngsters.

The centre, managed by G4S in co-operation with the Youth Justice Board since it opened in 1998, is a 76-bed facility for young offenders aged from 12 to 18.

The suspensions announced by G4S come after undercover filming by the BBC’s Panorama programme, which has yet to be aired.

The Times reported that it is alleged staff punched a youngster in the ribs and another was slapped several times on the head.

Staff were also alleged to have pressed heavily on the necks of young people, and staff tried to hide their actions by ensuring they were beneath CCTV cameras or in areas not covered by them.

G4S said it has referred the “serious allegations of inappropriate staff conduct” to Medway’s local authority designated officer, the YJB and the Ministry of Justice as Kent Police confirmed it was investigating.

Paul Cook, managing director of G4S children’s services in the UK, said: “I’m extremely shocked and appalled at the allegations that were presented to us, which clearly have no place in our business or any institution responsible for looking after young people.

“We received the allegations from Panorama to our press team on December 30, and all I have are written allegations at this time.”

CCTV has been secured relating to the dates given by Panorama, said Mr Cook, adding that they were treating the allegations with “utmost gravity”.

The YJB has suspended the placement of new youngsters at the facility, which would be “kept under review”, he went on.

Kent Police said in a statement: “Following a referral from the Medway local authority designated officer, Kent Police is investigating allegations that have been made regarding reports of abusive behaviour (physical and verbal) at a secure training facility in Medway.

“All necessary safeguarding measures have been taken and enquiries are ongoing.”

Youth Justice Board chief executive Lin Hinnigan said “immediate steps” were taken to safeguard those who are at the facility.

She said: “We have increased our own monitoring activity and the presence of our independent advocacy service, delivered by Barnardo’s. All of the staff identified in the allegations have been suspended by G4S, which runs the STC.

“Kent Police are reviewing each alleged incident and an investigation is under way. We are working closely with them and the other agencies involved, so it is not appropriate for us to comment further on the allegations.”

Six Baltimore police officers charged with prisoner death

Freddie Gray
Freddie Gray

Six officers in the police custody death of Freddie Gray are facing multiple charges including murder and manslaughter, Maryland’s state attorney has announced.

One officer faces a second-degree murder charge while the other officers face manslaughter or assault charges, among others, according to Marilyn Mosby.

She said the officers failed to get Mr Gray medical help even though he requested it repeatedly after he was arrested on April 12. She called his arrest illegal.

At some point while he was in custody, he suffered a mysterious spinal injury and died a week later.

Meanwhile, the Baltimore police officers union is asking Ms Mosby to appoint a special independent prosecutor for the investigation.

Fraternal Order of Police local president Gene Ryan told Ms Mosby in a letter that the union is concerned about her ties to the Gray family lawyer Billy Murphy.

Mr Murphy was among Ms Mosby’s biggest campaign contributors last year, donating the maximum individual amount allowed, 4,000 US dollars, in June. He was also on her transition team after the election.

The union says none of the six officers suspended in the investigation is responsible for Gray’s death.

Yarls Wood staff suspended after undercover investigation

Guards have been filmed making racist, sexist and threatening remarks at Yarl’s Wood
Guards have been filmed making racist, sexist and threatening remarks at Yarl’s Wood

A worker at Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre has been suspended after a guard was secretly filmed calling inmates “caged animals”.

The investigation into the centre in Bedfordshire, which is run by private firm Serco, also raised concerns about self-harm by inmates.

The footage was filmed by an undercover reporter for Channel 4 News.

Serco said it had appointed former barrister Kate Lampard to carry out an independent review of its work.
Yarl’s Wood detention centre Yarl’s Wood is the main removal centre holding women and families facing deportation

The footage showed staff at Yarl’s Wood referring to inmates as “animals” and “beasties”.

One guard said: “They’re animals. They’re beasties. They’re all animals. Caged animals. Take a stick with you and beat them up. Right?”

A Freedom of Information Act request by Channel 4 News revealed there were 74 separate incidents of self-harm needing medical treatment at the centre in 2013.

One staff member is recorded saying: “They are all slashing their wrists apparently. Let them slash their wrists.” Another adds: “It’s attention seeking.”

James Thorburn, managing director of Serco’s Home Affairs business – which manages Yarl’s Wood – said: “We will not tolerate poor conduct or disrespect and will take disciplinary action wherever appropriate.

“We work hard to ensure that the highest standards of conduct are maintained at Yarl’s Wood and Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons has found the Centre to be a safe and respectful place.”
Gates at Yarl’s Wood Serco confirmed it had suspended a member of staff

He said the independent review was needed because the “public will want to be confident that Yarl’s Wood is doing its difficult task with professionalism, care and humanity”.

Serco confirmed it had suspended a member of staff.

A Home Office spokesman said: “The dignity and welfare of all those in our care is of the utmost importance – we will accept nothing but the highest standards from companies employed to manage the detention estate.

“Last month, the Home Secretary commissioned an independent review of detainees’ welfare to be conducted by former prisons ombudsman Stephen Shaw, but these are clearly very serious and disturbing allegations which merit immediate scrutiny.

“All of our detention centres are part of a regular and rigorous inspection regime operated by independent monitoring boards and Her Majesty’s Inspector of Prisons.

“Lapses in standards, when they are identified, are dealt with swiftly and effectively.”

Prison Officer appeals order he must pay $146,000 to prisoners in sex abuse case

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A California prison officer is appealing a federal court’s decision in November forcing him to pay $46,000 to inmates who claimed he molested them while on duty.

Erwin Abanico, an officer, and Benjamin Curry, former warden, were named defendants in a Civil Rights lawsuit filed in the Northern District of California U.S. District Court in May 2007. Plaintiffs included Ivan Cleveland, Demetrius Huff, Desmond Jones, Robert Morris and Kenneth Trask, all inmates at CTF.

Terry Thornton, deputy press secretary for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, confirmed Tuesday that Abanico is still employed by the prison system despite the ongoing litigation.

She declined to comment on the pending appeal, which was filed March 25.

All five plaintiffs claimed, in an amended 2008 complaint, that Abanico, “assigned to a hall post, singled them/each out from the traffic of prisoners, and took them to the side, by the wall, for a ‘clothed body search.’”

Each inmate claimed to be familiar with typical clothed body searches, which consist of the guards’ authority to “cup the genital area” and touch the inner thighs to ensure no weapon is hidden.

However, each alleged Abanico’s searches were different and that he groped, fondled and molested them in the course of his duties.

More than 150 inmates agreed in a petition circulated in 2007, according to the complaint.

On Nov. 8, 2013, a jury agreed and awarded a total $146,000 in damages to the inmates. Abanico was made to pay $46,000 while Curry was ordered to pay $100,000.

An anonymous letter to The Californian earlier this week alleged Abanico’s union was keeping him in the employ of the CDCR.

“This man is now working at the Correctional Training Facility at Soledad with all the duties and power of the other correctional officers,” according to the unsigned letter. “I believe this needs to be made public because if he was not a member of this strong union, he would be incarcerated, not given the opportunity to violate again.”

CTF representatives referred comment to Thornton who didn’t specify whether Abanico is still working at CTF.

All except Jones, who has relocated to Chuckawalla Valley State Prison, and Trask, who has relocated to California State Prison, Solano, are still incarcerated at CTF.

Thornton said the CDCR complies with the Prisoner Rape Elimination Act of 2003 and the Sexual Abuse in Detention Elimination Act to provide prevent sexual abuse and misconduct within the prison’s walls.

Notorious Abu Ghraib Prison Closed

Abu_Ghraib_prison_abuse

Iraqi authorities have closed down a notorious prison west of Baghdad over security concerns, the justice minister said.

Hassan al-Shimmari said that 2,400 inmates have been transferred from Abu Ghraib to other prisons in safer areas of the country.

He said it was a precautionary measure because the Abu Ghraib facility is located in “a restive area”.

The prison is at the edge of the Sunni-dominated Anbar province, which has been engulfed in clashes between an al Qaida splinter group and government forces.

Last July, militants attacked Abu Ghraib and another prison, setting free hundreds of inmates, including many militants. Dozens of other inmates and security personnel were killed in the attack.

Under US troops, Abu Ghraib was at the centre of a 2004 scandal over detainee abuse.

Police shocked by scale of prison abuse claims

Medomsley detention centre

Detectives investigating sexual abuse at a detention centre have admitted they were shocked by the scale of the allegations after more than 500 potential victims were identified.

It was now thought an organised paedophile ring was operating in the 1970s and 1980s at Medomsley Detention Centre near Consett, County Durham.

Police announced in August they were starting a fresh investigation into abuse at the centre for young offenders who were mostly convicted of minor crimes.

In 2003 a previous police investigation led to the conviction of Neville Husband, a prison officer at the centre.

Husband was initially sent to jail for eight years after being found guilty of abusing five youngsters.

The publicity surrounding the trial then led to others coming forward and Husband was subsequently jailed for a further two years for these attacks.

After being released from prison he died from natural causes in 2010.

Now Detective Superintendent Paul Goundry, leading a 70-strong team, has told the Guardian: “We always knew this would be a major inquiry but the scale of it, and the sheer number of victims who have come forward, has been a shock.”

Husband, who went on to become a church minister, was in charge of the kitchens at Medomsley and would single out youths for sexual abuse, particularly those who had been in care and did not have strong family ties.

His former colleague Leslie Johnson, a storeman, was jailed for six years in 2005 for sexual offences. He has also since died.

Police originally believed the pair were operating alone, but that view has changed after speaking to many victims.

Mr Goundry told the Guardian: “From the statements, there is growing evidence to suggest there was an organised paedophile ring operating in Medomsley.”

He said the experience of many of the victims, sent for detention for relatively petty crimes, had ruined the rest of their lives.

The inquiry team was also investigating physical abuse of young detainees.

Jail Sex Abuse Claims Now Over 140

Paedophile Prison Officer Neville Husband
Paedophile Prison Officer Neville Husband

A police investigation into a young offenders’ centre in County Durham has now heard claims from more than 140 people that they were abused between the late 1960s and the mid-1980s.

Detectives announced in August they were starting a new investigation into allegations young men sent to Medomsley Detention Centre, near Consett, were abused by staff, which led to 83 people coming forward.

That number has now increased to 143 and police chiefs said detectives were left shaken by some of the accounts they heard.

Detective Superintendent Paul Goundry, of Durham Constabulary, said: “We said from the outset this was going to be a long and complex investigation which we fully expect will last at least another 12 months.

“So far we have been contacted by more than 140 former inmates of Medomsley, who have reported they were victims of either sexual or physical abuse at the centre between the late 1960s and the mid-1980s.

“The accounts we have heard have been horrific and have shaken some very experienced detectives who are working on this.

“It is obviously distressing to hear from so many victims, but at the same time I am relieved they have shown the confidence in us to get in touch and allow us to help them.

“Our efforts are directed not just at establishing what happened in Medomsley over that period but ensuring the victims are left in a better place and get the support and advice they need.”

In 2003, a previous police investigation called Operation Halter led to the conviction of Neville Husband, a prison officer at the centre.

Husband was initially jailed for eight years after being found guilty of abusing five youngsters.

The publicity surrounding the trial then led to others coming forward and Husband was subsequently jailed for a further two years for these attacks.

After being released from prison he died from natural causes in 2010.

Medomsley detention centre

Serco Staff Sacked Over Sex With Inmate

Yarls-Wood

Two staff at a privately-run immigration removal centre for women in Bedfordshire have been fired for engaging in sexual activity with a detainee.

A third employee at Serco-operated Yarl’s Wood was also sacked for failing to take any action when the female detainee reported the two men, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick said.

It was reported last month that police were investigating claims that a 23-year-old Roma woman who was held at Yarl’s Wood was subject to inappropriate sexual behaviour from guards.

But inspectors found no evidence that a “wider culture of victimisation or systematic abuse” had developed following the new allegations of abuse at the 400-bed centre.

Mr Hardwick said: “We were concerned to find that two staff had engaged in sexual activity with a female detainee, something that can never be less than abusive given the vulnerability of the detained population, and these staff had rightly been dismissed.”

Mr Hardwick added: “Yarl’s Wood still holds detainees in the middle of a distressing and difficult experience and more thought needs to be given to meeting their emotional and practical needs.

“For the most vulnerable of the women held, the decision to detain itself appears much too casual.”

Yarl’s Wood holds mainly single adult women but also holds a number of adult families and there is a short-term holding facility for adult men.

Inspectors concluded that more female staff were needed urgently as there were not enough for a mainly women’s establishment.

A number of women at the centre – where none of the detainees have been charged with an offence or held through normal judicial circumstances – were detained for long periods, including one for almost four years.

Elsewhere, the surprise inspection found pregnant women had been held without evidence of exceptional circumstances required to justify their captivity. One of the women had been admitted to hospital twice because of pregnancy-related complications.

And detainees who had clear human trafficking indicators – such as one woman who had been picked up in a brothel – had not been referred to the national trafficking referral mechanism, as required.

Refugee Council women’s advocacy and influencing officer Anna Musgrave said: “Some of the findings of this inspection are shocking.

“Women in immigration detention are extremely vulnerable, with many likely to be victims of gender-based violence, so we’re horrified to hear that male officers enter women’s rooms without permission.

“It’s particularly disturbing that officials are not even following current policy and pregnant women are being detained without any clear reason.

“Pregnant women with insecure immigration status already have high-risk pregnancies and we believe they should not be detained under any circumstances. There is absolutely no excuse for compromising the health and well-being of a mother and her baby.

“This report shows that urgent changes are needed at Yarl’s Wood to ensure that vulnerable women feel safe and that their dignity is respected.”

Rachel Robinson, policy officer for Liberty, said: “Revelations of sexual abuse and the unjustifiable detention of vulnerable women still cast a dark shadow over Yarl’s Wood.

“Attempts to avoid scrutiny and challenge via cuts to legal aid and the nasty Immigration Bill would deny more victims a voice and leave the Government that bit freer to act with impunity.”

John Tolland, Serco’s contract director, said: “We are really pleased that this inspection report recognises the improvements Serco has made at Yarl’s Wood and considers it to be an establishment where residents feel safe and there is little violence.

“Our managers and staff have worked hard to establish and maintain good relationships with the residents, who are vulnerable people in the middle of a distressing and difficult experience.

“However, we are not complacent. As the HMCIP report says, we need to make further improvements and we are already working closely with the Home Office to implement their recommendations.”

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: “The evidence of abuse at Yarl’s Wood is appalling. The Home Office and Serco have a responsibility to act much faster and much more effectively to stamp out abuse and make sure vulnerable women get the support and help they need.

“Yarl’s Wood is improving much too slowly.

“The Home Office has still not told us how long it knew abuse was taking place at Yarl’s Wood. Or why it is still failing to spot the signs of trafficking or of mental illness.

“The Home Office cannot shirk responsibility. Serco may run the centre but it is up to the Home Office to make sure people are being treated humanely, with proper procedures and training in place.

“I called on the Home Secretary last month to get the independent UKBA inspectorate to review urgently the operation of outsourced centres run by private contractors such as Serco and we have heard nothing.

“This report shows the Home Office are failing in their duties and the Home Secretary needs to put that right immediately.

“Our immigration system must be efficient, effective and beyond reproach – especially in how it deals with vulnerable people. There cannot be any place for abuse anywhere within that system.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “Detention is a vital tool that helps us remove those with no right to be in the country, but it is essential that our facilities are well run, safe and secure.

“Safeguarding those in our care is our utmost priority and misconduct is dealt with swiftly and robustly.

“We are carefully considering the contents of the report and will respond to each of its recommendations in due course.”

G4S Accused Of Shocking Prisoner Abuse

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Staff at one of South Africa’s most dangerous prisons, run by British firm G4S, have been accused of “shocking” abuses and of losing control.

The South African government has temporarily taken over the running of Mangaung prison from G4S and launched an official investigation.

It comes after inmates claimed they had been subjected to electric shocks and forced injections.

G4S says it is investigating the allegations.

The BBC has obtained leaked footage (above) filmed inside the high security prison, in which one can hear the click of electrified shields, and shrieking. It also shows a prisoner resisting a medication.

Researchers at the Wits Justice Project at Wits University in Johannesburg say they have collected accounts of electric shocks and beatings from almost 30 prisoners during a year-long investigation.

“Some said they would pass out when the shocks became too intense,” said Ruth Hopkins, a journalist with the Wits Justice Project.

She said inmates also complained about suffering broken limbs and other serious injuries.

One former prisoner told the BBC electric shocks were used as “torture”, while a sacked security guard said water was thrown over inmates to increase the impact of the charge.

A lawyer for some of the prisoners has condemned a culture of impunity amongst prison staff, according to the BBC’s Africa correspondent Andrew Harding.

G4S has blamed an upsurge of violence at the prison on a labour dispute, our correspondent adds. More than 300 guards there were sacked this month after going on an unofficial strike.

Nontsikelelo Jolingana, the acting national commissioner of the Department of Correctional Services, told the BBC her department had launched a formal investigation into the claims of abuse.

The South African prison authorities announced last month they were temporarily taking over the running of the prison near Bloemfontein, in the central Free State province, after the private security contractor “lost effective control of the facility”.

Andy Baker, regional president of G4S for Africa, said administering and prescribing injections was not the domain of G4S staff, but of independent medical staff.

When asked about allegations of electric shocking and beatings, he told the BBC there had “never been an abuse of this type or nature” to his knowledge.

In a statement to the BBC, G4S said while the video could not be verified, the company “takes such allegations very seriously and will be launching our own investigations into the matter”.

Mark Leech editor of Converse the national newspaper for prisonrs in England and Wales described the allegations as ‘deeply worrying’.

He said: “If true then it is vital that people responsible are charged and stand trial over these deeply worrying allegations – but its important also to remain focused and not allow emotion to cloud the issue.

“The South African government has taken back control of the prison from G4S which is what I believe they should be doing in this country in relation to HMP Oakwood – which seems to be in complete disarray.”