YOI fails to address violent incidents among young people

By Joanne Parkes

| 05 September 2019

A young offender institution in Staffordshire has not done enough to address the "significant over-representation" of under 21s involved in violent incidents at the setting, according to inspectors.

Swinfen Hall Young Offender Institution has received a mixed progress report. Picture: Twitter

Three quarters of incidents of violence and self-harm at Swinfen Hall Young Offender Institution have been found to be carried out by 18- to 20-year-olds, when just half the inmates are of this age.

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons, in partnership with Ofsted, this week published the "mixed report" on progress on a number of recommendations made in August 2018.

It highlights concerns that managers have not addressed a recommendation to "fully assess the needs of prisoners under 21 and investigate the reasons" behind the disproportionality of this group.

HM chief inspector of prisons Peter Clarke, states in the report: "There should be a detailed and realistic strategy for this age group to ensure they are properly cared for, and to provide an age-appropriate regime to keep them fully occupied and address any areas of poor behaviour.

"The prison group psychology team had been commissioned to carry out a literature review on the needs of young adults under 21 at Swinfen Hall, which was intended to support managers in developing provision for them. 

"In addition, the psychology team had recently circulated a survey to about 300 young adults and about 100 had been returned. 

"The responses had identified issues with the availability of activity spaces. 

"However, work to understand and meet the needs of young adults remained underdeveloped." 

Some provision has been prioritised for young adults, including the Duke of Edinburgh's Award and Choices and Changes (a non-accredited resource to support positive maturity and prosocial choices), states the report.

A young adult forum has also started to support key workers working with young adults, and the gym had held focus groups for young adults.

However, overall, there was no realistic strategy to ensure that young adults were appropriately cared for.

The report concludes: "We considered that the prison had made insufficient progress against this recommendation."

The July 2019 inspection reviewed 14 key recommendations and three themes provided to the 624 prisoner capacity YOI, in Litchfield, last year.

Progress had been reasonable or better in nine of these 17 areas, including in relation to improve safety and purposeful activity.

In particular, reasonable progress was made on a recommendation to provide better access to activity to inmates at risk of self-harm.

In addition, the prison had recently implemented a new domestic period ensuring that all prisoners were offered a daily shower and a telephone call, and evening association was now far more predictable.

Managers had increased the number of activity places since the previous inspection and the allocation process had improved, halving the number of prisoners who were unemployed. 

However, the population had also increased in this time and the prison was still some way off being able to ensure that every prisoner could access full-time employment. 

"This was a significant deficiency in a training prison holding a long-term young population," added Clarke.

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