A watchdog inspection of a young offender’s institution (YOI) has deliberately sped up action to reform efforts at the prison. An enquiry was set recently to report the living and safety conditions at Feltham A YOI, and was consequently shown to be in dire need of change, citing extraordinary decline in safety and care. Immediate action has been requested in the report activating the “urgent notification” process which gives the government 28 days to respond to the issue. This would be the first Youth institution to set this process into motion, preceding ones being adult prisons. The first step being, no more young offenders are now sent to this prison.
The inspection revealed an alarming ongoing situation in the prison, with reported incidents of severe aggression, violence, lack of care, prolonged lock ups and unbridled self-harm among the youth.
Feltham A, which holds just over 100 15 to 18-year-olds, has for many years been recognized as a challenging and complicated establishment, chief inspector of prisons Peter Clarke said. “We found that, in the six months since the last inspection, there had been what can only be described as a collapse in performance and outcomes for the children being held in Feltham A. The speed of this decline has been extraordinary.”
The mercurial population is being held responsible for the suspension of care and conditions. The staff are ill equipped to deal with increasingly vulnerable groups. Although the number of boys has fallen, from 148 in January to 108 at the latest inspection, the ones in prison come with the most challenging case histories and resulting behaviour. They are difficult to manage. And mitigating violence has been a great obstacle for the authorities in charge.