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Wednesday, 06 August 2014

Youth offenders prison labelled 'unsafe' by inspectors

Written by The Editorial Team

A Leicestershire young offenders prison has been heavily criticised as "unsafe" in a new report which exposes concerns over bullying, violence and self-harm.

The report, published by Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, said HMYOI Glen Parva saw a 32% increase in prisoners assessed as at risk of self-harm and suicide in 2013.

It said the inspectors found half of prisoners had felt unsafe at some time during their sentences and that assaults on prisoners and staff were rising.

Some prisoners committed offences in order to be sent to the segregation unit, because they felt safer there, the report said. Inspectors criticised the attitude of some members of staff who, they felt, accepted that poor behaviour by detainees was inevitable.

The prison was not doing enough to reduce availability of “legal high” drugs and too many inmates were being held in dirty conditions – including many sharing cells designed to hold single prisoners.

Inspectors were concerned to find that:

  •     although the atmosphere was not tense, almost half of the young men held said they had felt unsafe at some time;
  •     recorded levels of assaults on other prisoners and staff had risen by over a quarter over the last year;
  •     inspectors saw evidence of prisoners charging ‘rent’ for cells with the threat of violence if this was not paid;
  •     the prison was not on top of the availability of legal highs such as Spice, and the risks of debt and bullying this brought;
  •     the response of many staff to this behaviour was poor and there was an unacceptable attitude among some staff that poor behaviour by detainees was inevitable;
  •     the use of the segregation unit was high and the regime was inadequate and, while most of those in segregation were there as a punishment, some had committed their offences to get themselves placed away from the wings and safe;
  •     there was a direct link between the high levels of bullying and levels of self-harm which the YOI itself had identified;
  •     two men had killed themselves in 2013 and tragically another young man killed himself two months after the inspection;
  •     there were still weaknesses in the assessment, care in custody and teamwork (ACCT) self-harm monitoring arrangements and some young men were not getting the support they needed;
  •     half the population were doubled up in cells designed for one and many cells were dirty and lacked basic amenities; and
  •     there were insufficient activity places available and those that were available were underused and of insufficient quality.

However, inspectors were pleased with progress in certain areas. These were:

  •     innovative substance misuse services were very good and an example of best practice;
  •     support for prisoners with disabilities was generally good, reflecting very good health care overall;
  •     the prison had a good idea of what needed to be done and had introduced a new core day to improve access to activities and time out of cell;
  •     the Trackworks railway maintenance workshop showed what could be done when high quality training, linked to good employment prospects, motivated prisoners to make good progress; and
  •     practical resettlement services were reasonable and NACRO worked effectively to help prisoners find accommodation, employment or training.

Nick Hardwick said:“Glen Parva is a concerning institution. Local management can do much to improve things. There was some reassurance that many of the problems at Glen Parva had been identified and there were plans in place to address them, which they had begun to implement before the inspection started. It is much too early to assess these changes. However, some of the challenges Glen Parva faces are outside its direct control and the planned review of arrangements for holding young adults, and the current independent inquiry into recent self-inflicted deaths among this age group, need to proceed urgently.”

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive Officer of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), said:“The challenges presented by the young men held at Glen Parva should not be underestimated and on occasions the prison has struggled to cope. The Governor launched an improvement plan prior to this unannounced inspection and progress is being made. Safety is the Governor’s top priority and the YOI is now providing a safe and decent regime. We are reviewing future arrangements for young adult offenders in light of the wider concerns raised by the Inspectorate.”

Glen Parva held 659 young men aged 18 to 21 at the time of its inspection.