Inspectors have commended a young offender institution for 17-year-old girls, despite highlighting concerns about cleanliness, education standards and healthcare at the unit.
The juvenile unit at Eastwood Park was found to be performing well overall. Image: Alex Deverill
An unannounced inspection of the juvenile unit at Eastwood Park YOI found the establishment was safe, with little bullying, and that child protection structures in the setting had improved since its last inspection.
Relationships between staff and young women were found to be “excellent” and inspectors were impressed by the tailored resettlement planning provided to girls preparing to leave the unit.
However, inspectors said they were disappointed to find that cells were “grubby” and that there was poor hygiene in the kitchen.
The no-notice check also found that there had been a “contraction” in the range of education and vocational training available at the unit, with training found to be “quite limited”.
The inspection report meanwhile states that two pregnant teenagers were moved from the unit to an adult prison, because of risk assessments that indicated the setting was not appropriate for them.
“Two heavily pregnant 17-year-old young women had recently been admitted to the mother and baby unit following individual risk assessments of their safety,” the report says. “The relocation was agreed with the Youth Justice Board and demonstrated sensitive and appropriate care while minimising risk.”
Details of the movement of the young women emerges just weeks after youth justice minister Jeremy Wright told parliament that five young offenders were moved to the adult estate in 2011.
Andrew Neilson, director of campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said the charity is concerned by the treatment of the girls.
“Ministers were saying only the other week that moving young people to adult prisons was something that was associated with challenging behaviour,” he said. “Here we have examples of people being moved because they are heavily pregnant and that is very concerning.
“There is no reason why young people should be in prison in the first place if they are heavily pregnant and, if they are, then there is certainly no reason why they should be denied access to medical facilities in a hospital, as is common practice with any prisoner in medical need.”
Despite this, Nick Hardwick, chief inspector of prisons, said the 16-bed unit is performing well. “Although it holds only a few young women, the challenge of providing interventions that work, for arguably some of the most damaged and vulnerable young women in the country, should not be underestimated,” he said.
“The evidence we saw suggests that the unit continues to provide a good service with good outcomes.”
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