Wetherby IMB say Young Offender violence must be stopped

HMYOI Wetherby

Calls have been made for urgent action to tackle the causes of violent behaviour resulting in “more and more” people being sent to young offender institutions.

The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) at HM YOI Wetherby made the plea to the Government in its 2018/19 report on the establishment.

The young offender institution in West Yorkshire holds around 240 “extremely challenging young people” aged between 15 and 18.

Some 52% of those sentenced and held on remand at Wetherby are charged with violent offences, and 12% with sex crimes.

Catherine Porter, chairman of the IMB, said: “Over the last few years we have observed many much-needed improvements put in place, whilst also dealing with significantly more complex young people.

“Most young people report to the board that they find Wetherby to be better than they expected.

“That said, many of the concerns that we raise this year and in our previous annual reports remain the same.

“They are not the responsibility of the Governor but of the minister for prisons Lucy Frazer and the Prison Service and urgent action is required.”

The report addressed its concerns to the prisons minister, and said: “Last year we asked, ‘What is being done nationally to reduce the levels of violence amongst children and young people?’

“This year, as we see no evidence of any improvement and in fact the number of violent crimes has increased, we ask the same question: What, if anything, is being done nationally to reduce the levels of violence amongst children and young people?”

It also called for answers on what is being done to reduce the time taken to fill vacancies, adding: “Delays in the recruitment process for staff, particularly in education and health care, seriously compromise the establishment’s effectiveness.”

It also asked the prison service to review concerns it raised about a lack of secure hospital beds for young offenders with complex mental health problems, and asked it to consider whether a young offender institution was a suitable place for them.

The board raised concerns over frequent “assaults resulting in significant injury to staff or prisoners and requiring hospital treatment” that “are not dealt with rigorously enough”, adding: “The board believes that not only is this demoralising for the victim of such an assault, but it does not act as sufficient deterrent to potential perpetrators.”

IMBs are made up of volunteers appointed by justice ministers to scrutinise prison conditions.

A special unit will soon open at Wetherby for prisoners with mental health problems and more staff have been hired to run it, the Government said.

A spokesman added: “As this report recognises, HMYOI Wetherby is a safe, well-run prison, which works to help its prisoners turn their lives around from the moment they start their sentences.

“The Government is investing more than £220 million into early intervention projects to stop young people from committing crime in the first place.”

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Prison Officer stabbed at HMYOI Swinfen Hall

A prison officer has been stabbed in an incident at a jail for young offenders.

The staff member at HMP/YOI Swinfen Hall was attacked on Friday, but it is understood the injuries were not serious and they were able to leave hospital later that day.

Security has been increased as well as searches, since the incident, and police are investigating.

A Prison Service spokeswoman said it would be seeking “the strongest possible punishment”, adding the Government had already introduced tougher sentences for those convicted of assaults on prison officers.

The incident came as a report published on Tuesday by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIC) found the jail had “made progress” on safety but still needed to make improvements, after concerns were identified in a 2018 inspection.

The site houses 570 young male long-term inmates and was inspected across three days, in July.

Carrying out an interim independent review at the jail, the chief inspector of prisons Peter Clarke described “mixed” findings.

He said management at the prison near Lichfield, Staffordshire, had “made progress” on safety and activities for inmates, but progress in other areas had started “too late to have an impact” when inspectors visited.

Inspectors said: “In 2018, the fundamental issue requiring attention was the poor regime, which had a negative impact on every aspect of prison life.

“We found that it was disrupted about 60% of the time, limiting prisoner access to work and education.”

Last year’s visit highlighted a lack of time out of cells, having “an acute effect on younger prisoners” and inmates “vulnerable or prone to committing acts of self-harm”.

“It also prevented the development of prisoners’ constructive relationships with staff, family contact and basic living conditions,” said Mr Clarke.

“All of this inevitably had a negative impact on prisoners’ feelings of wellbeing and prevented the prison from fulfilling its objectives as a training prison.

During the recent interim visit, inspectors found the prison’s regime had made progress against half of a selection of key recommendations, set following last year’s visit.

There had been “insufficient” or “no meaningful progress” in the other markers.

Mr Clarke said: “This mixed picture masks the important work to improve safety and purposeful activity that had taken place.”

On safety, the report found the prison “faced significant external challenges” since last year, after receiving a transfer of prisoners from Aylesbury after that jail’s capacity was cut.

“This contributed to a spike in violence earlier in 2019,” the report concluded, but management had made “tangible progress”.

It added that levels of self harm “remain a concern”.

Despite improvements in staff-prisoner relationships, inspectors also found “overall too few prisoners thought they were treated with respect or had a member of staff to turn to with a problem”.

Responding to the stabbing, a Prison Service spokeswoman said: “A prison officer received hospital treatment after an incident at HMP Swinfen Hall and was discharged the same day.

“The police are investigating and we will push for the strongest possible punishment.

“This Government has doubled the maximum sentence for those who assault prison officers and last month committed an extra £100 million on airport-style security to crack down on crime in prisons.”

As well as equipping prison officers with body-worn video, Pava spray and police-type restraints, tougher sentences for those assaulting staff have been brought in.

The Assaults on Emergency Workers Act doubled the maximum jail term for assaults on prison officers from six to 12 months.

Resettlement Work In YOIs – In Most Cases Letting Down The Children They Release, Say Chief Inspectors

Young offender institutions (YOIs) are largely failing to prepare children they release to live safe, law-abiding and productive lives in the community, according to a new report by two criminal justice inspectorates.

In too many case, those released do not have suitable accommodation lined up in time for the necessary support services to be put in place. Most have no training, education or employment arranged and mental health support is often lacking.

HM Inspectorate of Prisons and HM Inspectorate of Probation, in a joint thematic inspection on resettlement work, principally in YOIs, also found inadequate planning to protect others, including families and younger children, from the risk posed by those released.

Every year, hundreds of children are released into the community from the five YOIs in England and Wales – many of them with very profound needs for support and follow-up care. Some pose a serious risk of harm to others.

The report noted: “With the exception of the casework team in HMYOI Wetherby,  none of the YOI-based agencies or departments we inspected were sufficiently focused on resettlement.”

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, and Justin Russell, HM Chief Inspector of Probation, said: “We saw some examples of excellent resettlement work which offered children the best opportunities to change their lives and successfully reintegrate into their communities.” A common feature of the good examples was a ‘team around the child’ approach in which professionals worked together across agency boundaries.

“More often, though, we found that, while children were in custody, there was not enough productive resettlement work; this had detrimental consequences for them when they were released.

“The most damaging outcome was a lack of suitable accommodation identified in time for other services to be in place.” Ten days before release, almost 14% of children released in the first three months of 2019 did not know where they would be living after leaving the YOI. Most did not have education, training or employment arranged.

The inspection looked in detail at 50 cases of children released. “We judged that 38 out of 50… did not have these services in place at an appropriate time before their release. Mental health support was also, too often, not in place.”

Inspectors found that staff in YOIs – in casework, education and health care – were committed and enthusiastic, and interested in the welfare of the children. There was some imaginative resettlement work in all of the YOIs.

However, the report noted: “With the exception of the casework team in Wetherby, none of the YOI-based agencies or departments we inspected were sufficiently focused on resettlement.” Inspectors were concerned by a range of systemic weaknesses:

  • YOIs tended to concentrate on delivering services while the child was in custody that met their immediate needs and risks. Not enough thought was given to their future.
  • YOIs did not consider sufficiently often the risk to others that the child might pose on release.
  • None of the children who spoke to inspectors felt that the work that they had done in the YOI had helped them towards doing better on release.
  • Good work in mental health support during custody was often negated by a lack of attention to continuing support on release.
  • The children who reached 18 years old while serving a custodial sentence and were transferred to adult offending services faced additional difficulties with the loss of their rights to children’s services and the different expectations placed on them, often with little preparation or understanding.
  • Resettlement planning and interventions were mostly resource-led and formulaic. Children were ‘fitted in’ to what was available within the YOI, with little attention paid to their individual needs.

Mr Clarke said: “YOIs have not fully grasped the essential function of resettlement. They frequently neither enabled nor required their casework and other teams to deliver it. In addition, they have not ensured that resettlement work is understood, respected and prioritised across the whole YOI.”

Mr Russell said: “We found children and young people are being let down and are not being supported to succeed on release. Good mental health support in custody needs to continue in the community. Education and training should lead to purposeful activity and help individuals to fulfil their potential. Children and young people should have safe and secure accommodation on release. It is disappointing to see that four years after we last looked at this issue, so many of the same issues remain.”

NOTES:

The joint thematic report, published on 8 August, can be found at https://prisons.org.uk/YouthresettlementTR082019.pdf

There are five YOIs, holding children under the age of 18, in England and Wales – Feltham A in London, Cookham Wood in Kent, Werrington, near Stoke-on-Trent, Wetherby and Keppel in North Yorkshire, and Parc in Wales.

This inspection looked at the experience of 50 of these children who were released between October 2018 and April 2019 from all five YOIs. As well as examining the case files, our inspectors interviewed the case managers and children themselves wherever possible. They also used data collected on 115 children released in the first three months of 2019 and drew on a survey of over 600 children in custody undertaken by HM Inspectorate of Prisons.

This interim report focuses on the outcomes for children immediately on release, and the operational work carried out to prepare them for release. It is largely, but not exclusively, about work carried out by staff working within YOIs.

A joint thematic inspection led by HMI Probation in 2015 found that:

  • Outcomes for children leaving custody were poor. The worst examples were the lack of suitable accommodation being considered early enough and the failure to organise appropriate, realistic education, training and employment provision or constructive activities at the point of release.
  • Resettlement work often started too late, and work in the community was not proactive enough during the custodial stage.

Teenagers attack staff ‘for honour’ in Feltham A youth prison

Reported in The Times today 6th August 2019.

Inmates are attacking officers as a “mark of honour” at a young offender institution plagued by gang allegiances and rivalries.

Staff at Feltham A in west London are also being assaulted by teenagers when they try to stop them attacking each other. Separating gangs has dominated prison life to such an extent that any work and education routines have collapsed, causing more resentment and violence, according to Peter Clarke, the chief inspector of prisons.

He has demanded that the justice secretary produce an action plan for improvement after inspectors found a “collapse” in safety and care.

One prison officer said that the “perfect cocktail” of inexperienced staff, gang rivalries and a hard core of violent teenagers aged 15 to 18 was behind the rising unrest. “There is a huge issue with gangs, members of postcode gangs in London, who are in the jail. They have an ethos of loyalty to the gang and they want to attack members of other gangs in the units. We have had situations where they are actually fighting staff to get to each other. It is a degree of honour for them to get at the other person,” the officer said.

The officer said that inmates were also attacking staff to prove themselves to their peers at the institution which holds just over 100 offenders aged 15 to 18, many of whom have been convicted of violent crimes including murder.

“They attack staff. There is an honour in attacking staff. They get an elevated position in their own peer group if they attack staff. They go to the top of the pile,” he said.

Staff have suffered serious injuries including broken jaws and damaged eye sockets. In April, 13 prison officers needed hospital treatment after they were attacked by inmates. Figures show that assaults rose from 230 to 325 in the six months to June, including a rise of attacks on staff from 62 to 152.

The prison has adopted a “keep apart” policy where inmates from rival groups are kept separate. This involves officers escorting them to education and healthcare appointments as well as ensuring that they are not in the same classes or at the gym together. As a result many are unable to get education or training and remain in their cells for long periods.

“They spend longer in their cells because we have to keep them apart and they get isolated and frustrated. Their coping skills are not good so they use violence as a way of getting attention”, the officer said.

The difficulties facing the prison have been compounded by the loss of experienced officers as a result of budget cuts. They are now being replaced by new staff with limited skills in how to cope with troubled and disruptive teenagers.

“Some recruits are not much older than the prisoners. They are young and have very limited experience to draw upon when dealing with young men who have complex needs and are violent,” the officer said.

Ministers stopped sending teenagers to Feltham A after Mr Clarke’s demand for urgent action to deal with what he described as an “extraordinary” decline in safety and care.

A prison service spokeswoman said: “The governor, who is still relatively new in post, is working hard to drive improvement in an establishment which has one of the highest and most concentrated proportions of violent offenders in the country. She and her team are incredibly dedicated to turning Feltham A around and we will respond with a formal action plan.”

HMYOI WERRINGTON – Many positives but high levels of violence impacting lives

HMYOI Werrington in holding around 120 boys aged between 15 and 18, was found by inspectors to have become less safe over the year since its last inspection.

Notable features from this inspection
  • 56% of children identified as being from a black Asian or minority ethnic background.

  • Around 40% of frontline staff had less than 12 months experience.

  • 51% of children reported having previously been in Care.

  • 15 children were facing or serving long-term sentences.

  • 57% of children reported having been restrained.

Brief history

  • The establishment opened in 1895 as an industrial school and was subsequently purchased by the Prison Commissioners in 1955. Two years later it opened as a senior detention centre. Following the implementation of the Criminal Justice Act 1982 it converted to a youth custody centre in 1985 and in 1988 became a dedicated juvenile centre (15-18-year olds) with secure accommodation for those serving a detention and training order. Young people serving extended sentences under Section 91 of the Criminal Justice Act and remanded young people are also held at Werrington.

Inspectors assessed that the young offender institution, near Stoke-on-Trent, had deteriorated in three of HM Inspectorate of Prisons’ ‘healthy prisons tests’. Care for children and rehabilitation work had both slipped from good, the highest assessment, to reasonably good. The test of purposeful activity for those held remained at reasonably good.

Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, while drawing attention to many positives at Werrington, was concerned that safety had now fallen to an assessment of not sufficiently good.

“The number of assaults on children remained high and violence against staff had doubled since our previous inspection. This impacted on all aspects of life at Werrington.” Inspectors found that some of the violence was serious. The use of force by staff had gone up.

The number of assaults on children remained high and violence against staff had doubled since our previous inspection. This impacted on all aspects of life at Werrington.

“We found that potentially motivational behaviour management policies were undermined by poor implementation and the lack of consistency in their application led to frustration among children and staff. Opportunities to reward good behaviour were missed and we saw many examples of low level poor behaviour not being challenged.” Inspectors, who visited in February 2019, noted that behaviour management had become more punitive compared to the previous inspection in January 2018.

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Mr Clarke added that it was “notable that there had been significant staff turnover in the previous year. During the inspection, we met many enthusiastic staff in their first year of service. However, leaders and managers needed to be more visible to support these staff, model effective practice and ensure behaviour management policies were properly implemented to help reduce the high levels of violence at Werrington.”

Outcomes in the area of care were more encouraging. The promotion of equality and diversity by the education provider at the YOI was particularly good and inspectors found no evidence of disproportionate treatment of children from minority groups. Health care was also very good.

“Engagement between staff and children was respectful but opportunities to build more meaningful and effective relationships were missed.” Inspectors, though, commended an area of good practice. The YOI’s safer custody team maintained a database of key dates, such as the anniversary of bereavements. All staff were contacted before these dates and asked to look out for these children. Time out of cell was reasonably good for most children but ‘keep apart’ issues – aimed at keeping apart boys who might come into conflict – meant there were often delays in moving them to education, health care or other appointments.

“This meant that resource was wasted as teachers, clinicians and other professionals waited for children to arrive,” Mr Clarke said. However, attendance at education had improved since the previous inspection and children appreciated the better range of vocational subjects on offer.

Inspectors found some good work in support of resettlement but a lack of coordination. Caseworkers, and sentence plans, were not driving the care of children at Werrington.

Overall, Mr Clarke said:

“There are many positives in this report but weaknesses in behaviour management have led to deterioration of outcomes in some areas. Managers need to make a concerted effort to support frontline staff in the challenging task of implementing behaviour management schemes, with the principal aim of reducing the number of violent incidents at Werrington.”

Helga Swidenbank, HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) Executive Director of the Youth Custody Service, said:

“I am pleased that inspectors have recognised the large amount of positive work taking place at Werrington, including good healthcare and education, and the strong relationships staff have developed with the boys in their care. While violence is a challenge across the youth estate, the new Governor has already started to implement plans to reduce it, review behaviour management and improve the one-to-one support for every boy. As part of a new initiative, experienced staff are now providing more support to recently recruited frontline officers and this will help to drive improvements at Werrington.”

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Children in Custody – Welcome signs of improvement but many still feel unsafe

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.”

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Little or no progress at all in moving young offenders to adult probation services say Inspectors

Young-offendersjLittle 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.”

A copy of the full report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Probation website from 19 January at: justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprobation

Four prisoners injured after riot at young offender institution

swinfen-hallFour prisoners have been injured in an incident at a young offenders prison in Staffordshire.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said specially trained officers were sent in to deal with “an incident of indiscipline” at HMP & YOI Swinfen Hall near Lichfield.

The disturbance involved a single wing of the jail.

During the fracas four prisoners received minor injuries but no prison officers were hurt.

A small fire on the wing was dealt with by firefighters.

A Prison Service spokesman said: “Specially trained prison officers dealt with an incident of indiscipline at YOI Swinfen Hall on Thursday.

“The incident was resolved and the prison is operating as normal.”

Notes: Following factual information about HMP / YOI Swinfen Hall is taken from The Prisons Handbook 2015

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
Brief history
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
A 64
B 60 – induction / first night
C 60
D 64
E 68
F 90
G 90
I 82
J 80
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

Purchase The Prisons Handbook 2015 here

HMYOI Wetherby Keppel Unit – High standards of care in well run facility

A child in the Keppel Unit at Wetherby YOI
A child in the Keppel Unit at Wetherby YOI

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.”

A copy of the report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website at http://www.justice.gov.uk/publications/inspectorate-reports/hmi-prisons/prison-and-yoi/wetherby

Children and Young People in Custody – Some Improvements, Some Concerns

Nick Hardwick Chief Inspector of Prisons
Nick Hardwick
Chief Inspector of Prisons

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.”

A copy of the both reports can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 10 December 2013 at http://www.justice.gov.uk/publications/inspectorate-reports/hmi-prisons/thematic-research.htm