Children in Custody 2017–18: An analysis of 12–18-year-olds’ perceptions of their experiences in secure training centres and young offender institutions
Signs of improvement in youth custody establishments have yet to translate into greater feelings of safety for those detained, according to new analysis of the perceptions of children in custody.
Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing the study of children held in 2017-18 in England and Wales, warned against complacency because of improvements seen in some recent inspections of secure training centres (STCs) and young offender institutions (YOIs).
Despite indications of improved behaviour, significant numbers of children in both types of establishment still said they had felt unsafe at some time. The figures were 34% for STCs and 40% in YOIs.
In February 2017, Mr Clarke warned the Minister for Victims, Youth and Family Justice that HM Inspectorate of Prisons could not then classify any STC or YOI as safe enough to hold children, because of high levels of violence.
This year (2017-18), Mr Clarke said, “there have been some encouraging signs of improvement in safety at some establishments, but history tells us that all too often early signs of improvement have not been sustained.
“A key factor in securing a safe environment for children in custody is finding positive ways to encourage good behaviour. During the year we published a thematic report on this subject, the key finding of which was that all effective behaviour management was underpinned by positive relationships between staff and children. Building those positive relationships is a key challenge for both STCs and YOIs, given the shortages of staff, their high turnover rates and, in too many establishments, very poor time out of cell for the children.”
Mr Clarke added: “It is notable that there has been no statistically significant shift in the perceptions of children about their treatment and conditions – either in STCs or YOIs. Too many children… (34% in STCs and 40% in YOIs) report having felt unsafe since coming into custody.”
The independent HMIP report was commissioned by the Youth Justice Board (YJB). Mr Clarke said the YJB and the recently created Youth Custody Service (YCS) within the prison service should fully understand a notable finding in the perceptions analysis. This is that significantly more (87%) children in STCs reported being treated respectfully by staff than the 64% of boys who did so in YOIs.
A total of 686 children, from a population in custody of just under 840, answered questions in a survey.
Key findings included:
42% of children in STCs identified as being from a black or other minority ethnic background;
Over half of children (56%) in STCs reported that they had been physically restrained in the centre;
Nearly a third of children in STCs (30%) reported being victimised by other children by being shouted at through windows;
Over half (51%) of boys in YOIs identified as being from a black or minority ethnic background, the highest rate recorded in surveys of YOIs:
Half of children (50%) in YOIs reported that they had been physically restrained.
Mr Clarke said:
“I trust that the details of this report will prove useful to those whose responsibility it is to provide safe, respectful and purposeful custody for children. As we all know, the perceptions of children in custody, will, for them, be the reality of what is happening. That is why we should not allow the recent improvement in inspection findings to give rise to complacency.”
Little progress has been made in improving the preparation and planning for young people to move from youth offending services to adult probation services and this can affect their rehabilitation, said Alan MacDonald, Assistant Chief Inspector of Probation.
Today HM Inspectorate of Probation published the report of an inspection of transition arrangements.
Today’s report, Transition Arrangements: a follow-up inspection, sought to establish how far the recommendations from a 2012 joint report, Transitions: An inspection of the transitions arrangements from youth to adult services in the criminal justice system had been implemented and whether practice had improved. HMI Probation inspectors visited six areas and spoke to staff from Youth Offending Teams, Community Rehabilitation Companies and the National Probation Service, conducting 50 interviews. Despite some examples of effective practice, inspectors noted an overall lack of progress by various local and national bodies in implementing its recommendations.
There are various different orders and sentences which can be imposed on a young person. Some, such as referral orders, reparation orders or detention and training orders, do not get transferred to the adult world when a person reaches the age of 18. Some youth rehabilitation orders can be transferred once specific requirements have been completed, and other orders should be transferred, as well as long-term custodial sentences.
Inspectors found that:
in the community, some young people were not identified as eligible for transfer and, in those cases which were identified, transfer was often undertaken as a purely procedural task;
young people were not as informed or involved as they should have been;
there was insufficient timely sharing of information between youth and adult services to enable sentence plans to be delivered without interruption; and
in custody, insufficient forward planning and communication led to an interruption in sentence planning and delivery of interventions after young people had transferred to an over-18 young offender institution or prison.
Inspectors made eight recommendations in the 2012 report. This report recommends to the Youth Justice Board, Youth Offending Team Management Boards, the National Offender Management Service, the National Probation Service and Community Rehabilitation Companies that those original recommendations are followed.
Alan MacDonald said:
“The transfer from the youth to adult world is a challenging time for any individual, including those involved in the criminal justice system. Failure to plan a smooth and effective transfer places a barrier to compliance and rehabilitation in young people’s lives.
“We found some examples of effective practice. However, the majority of cases had not been identified as possible transfer cases. There was no consistency across the areas we inspected. In many cases there was little or no preparation, a failure to use existing information and a lack of planning. Young people entered the adult service unprepared and uninformed of the expectations they faced. We believe that young people are less likely to reoffend if they receive well-planned, uninterrupted supervision moving from Youth Offending Teams to adult probation providers.”
Task of the establishment: Young adult male long-term training and adult male category C prison.
Prison status: Public
Region: West Midlands
Number held: 585
Certified normal accommodation: 604, reduced to 544 for Crown Premises Inspection Group (CPIG) work.
Operational capacity: 654, reduced to 594 for CPIG work (G wing closure)
Date of last full inspection: 2014
Swinfen Hall opened as a borstal in 1963 and, following a short period as a youth custody centre, in
1988-89 it became a long-term closed young offender institution. Two new wings were built in 1998,
increasing the capacity to 320 places. The establishment has gone through a major expansion
programme that has increased prisoner places from 320 to 654. It takes young men aged between 18
and 25 serving 3.5 years up to and including life.
Short description of residential units
Wing Number held
B 60 – induction / first night
Care and separation unit (segregation) 17
Name of governor: Teresa Clarke
Escort contractor: GEOAmey
Health service provider: Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Partnership NHS Trust
Learning and skills providers: Milton Keynes College
Bournville College South and City College Birmingham
Quality Transport Training N-ergy
South Staffordshire Library
Shannon Trust Reading Plan
Independent Monitoring Board chair: Jane Calloway
The Keppel Unit at HMYOI Wetherby was extremely well run and provided a model for other specialist units for young people, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons. Today he published the report of an unannounced inspection of the special unit at the young offender institution in West Yorkshire.
HMYOI Wetherby’s Keppel Unit, which opened in 2008, is designed to provide a safe and supportive environment for some of the most challenging and vulnerable young people in the country whose needs cannot be met in the mainstream prison system. It is the only unit of its kind in the secure estate. This was its third inspection. Each time inspectors have reported positively about the conditions and the way young people were being treated. On this inspection, inspectors found that the positive culture and work practices had developed to a higher level and now provided a model of how a specialist unit should be run.
Inspectors were pleased to find that:
high quality care was delivered in an environment where young people had the chance to settle and the opportunity to thrive;
all young people had an up-to-date care plan which ensured that their needs were under constant review;
levels of self-harm remained a concern but those at risk were well supported;
relationships between staff and young people were very good and staff intervened quickly to prevent bullying and fights from escalating;
leadership of the unit was strong and consistent, helping staff from different disciplines to work well as a team;
the unit was well designed, which helped to create a calm atmosphere;
the education department offered a supportive environment and poor behaviour was dealt with effectively;
time out of cell was adequate and young people had regular time in the open air; and
progress had been made in co-ordinating resettlement work and there was now greater involvement by external partners in safeguarding and child protection arrangements.
However, inspectors were concerned to find that:
removal from the unit was still used as a punishment and routine strip searching still took place with force sometimes used to gain compliance; and
many young people struggled to maintain regular contact with their families, a key element of support working towards and on release, due to the distance they were held from home.
Nick Hardwick said:
“In the five years since its inception a positive ethos has been established and sustained within the Keppel unit and good work practices have become embedded. Despite their vulnerability, young people were provided with a high standard of care within a well-run facility. Our findings reflect the positive reaction from most young people and overall, the outcomes available were having a constructive and positive influence on some otherwise difficult young people. The secure estate has much to learn from the positive way the Keppel unit has been developed over recent years.”
Michael Spurr, Chief Executive Officer of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), said:
“I am pleased that the Chief Inspector has recognised the excellent work being undertaken at the Keppel Unit.
“Staff look after some very challenging young people with highly complex needs, and the care they provide is outstanding. They can be very proud of this very positive report.”
Children and Young People in Custody – Some Improvements, Some Concerns Most young people’s perceptions of their treatment and conditions in custody had improved but there were indications that establishments were struggling to manage some of the most challenging or vulnerable, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing two thematic reports on the results of surveys of children and young people in custody.
The first report, Children and Young People in Custody 2012-13: an analysis of the experiences of 15-18-year-olds in prison, published jointly with the Youth Justice Board (YJB), sets out how young people describe their own experience of imprisonment in a young offender institution (YOI).
Since 2011-12, the numbers of young people aged 18 and under in custody dropped by just over 28% to 1,420 in March 2013. Those held in YOIs made up the majority of those in custody and there was a drop of 32% during the reporting period, with 1,044 young men and women held in March 2013. This period saw the decommissioning of a further 360 places by re-roling HMYOI Ashfield into a category C prison for male adults. In July 2013, the decision was taken to decommission the remaining female YOI units and hold all young women in secure training centres (STCs) and secure children’s homes (SCHs). At the time these reports were prepared, the government was considering plans for major changes to youth custody arrangements.
The surveys demonstrate variations in young people’s perceptions in different establishments that reflect, in part, differences in their size and functions. However, the overall picture for young men this year was of improvement in their perceptions across almost all areas of life in custody. It is not possible to definitively explain this improvement, but improved treatment and conditions may reflect the reduced population held in many YOIs. In this reporting period, there were higher proportions of sentenced young men and young men aged 18 than in the previous year, perhaps reflecting a more stable and mature population than previously. However, the vulnerability of many of the young men held is clear.
The report also found that:
a third of young men had been in local authority care and almost nine out of ten had been excluded from school;
74% of young men said most staff treated them with respect compared with 64% in 2011-12;
90% of young men said they wanted to stop offending but a higher proportion than last year thought they would have problems getting a job on release;
51% felt they had done something in the establishment that would make them less likely to offend in the future, compared with 45% in 2011-12;
the population of young men who said they were from a black and minority ethnic background remained stable at 45%;
the population of young men who described themselves as Muslim has remained stable at 22% after considerable increase from 13% in 2009-10 to 21% in 2011-12;
the number of young women held is very small and reduced further in 2012-13; and
there was improvement in the proportion of young women reporting one or more visits per week
Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, said:
“Three very clear messages are apparent from this year’s survey findings. First, most young people say they have been better able to navigate the experience of custody itself than in the past. Second, there are significant minorities of young people for whom this is not true and the variation across establishments is too wide. It is in these exceptions that the greatest risks lie. Third, young people may be generally able to manage the experience of custody better but they are more anxious about how they will manage after release. They want to get a job and stay out of trouble but too many do not know where to go to get the help they need.”
In April 2012, HM Inspectorate of Prisons, Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission began joint inspections of STCs. The second report, Children and Young People in Custody 2012-13: an analysis of 12–18-year-olds’ perceptions of their experience in secure training centres is the first annual summary of children and young people’s experience of STCs.
Generally most young people were positive about their treatment and conditions in which they were held. However, in some important areas a sizeable minority of young people reported negatively and the range of some results across establishments is concerning.
The report found that:
most young people felt safe, felt that staff treated them with respect and that the education they had received would help them;
16% of children and young people said they would have no-one to turn to if they had a problem;
30% said they had been physically restrained by staff;
44% of young people said they were from a black or minority ethnic background and 19% said they had a disability.
In some important areas, young people from all minority groups reported different experiences from the population as a whole. More work needs to be done to understand the over-representation of these minority groups and what lies behind the differences in their perceived experiences. The numbers of young people who said they were Muslims or from a Gypsy, Romany or Traveller background (21% and 12% respectively) varied substantially from statistical data held by the centre. This requires further investigation.
Nick Hardwick said:
“All the young people held in STCs are children and have the same fundamental rights as other children – to be safe from harm, educated, healthy, treated fairly and heard. Most of the young people surveyed for this report tell us that is the case, but a significant minority say that in important areas, that is not so. The planned changes to the youth custody estate need to take careful account of what young people identify as the strengths and weaknesses of the current provision.”
Lin Hinnigan, Chief Executive of the Youth Justice Board, said:
“The Youth Justice Board (YJB) commissions these annual reports to listen to the voices of children and young people in custody, to take forward their concerns and to understand how we can improve their experiences
“This year, the overall improved results show that much good work already goes on in custody to support some of the most vulnerable, challenging and troubled young people in society.
“However, we remain concerned about the significant minority of young people, whose experiences are less positive than others, including those from minority ethnic backgrounds or those who are particularly vulnerable for other reasons. We will continue to work with providers to improve the experience of these young people.
“The Youth Justice Board is also committed to improving resettlement when young people leave custody in order to improve their life chances and to reduce reoffending.”