Inspectors find high levels of violence at youth jail

Neil Puffett
Thursday, August 1, 2013

A young offender institution has been criticised by inspectors over high levels of violence and the use of segregation.

There were 137 assaults on young people in the six months before inspectors visited. Image: Phil Adams
There were 137 assaults on young people in the six months before inspectors visited. Image: Phil Adams

An inspection of Warren Hill YOI, a facility for 15- to 18-year-old boys in Suffolk, concluded that, overall, improvements following riots at the establishment in 2011 had been sustained.

But they found that the number of violent incidents was very high and some were very serious.

During the six months before the inspection, which took place in March, there had been 137 assaults on young people, 48 assaults on staff and 112 fights between young people.

Most injuries were minor, but five young people and one member of staff had required hospital treatment for broken bones, unconsciousness and multiple injuries, including black eyes, stab wounds and grazes. There were also 94 recorded incidents of bullying.

Inspectors also judged the segregation unit to be “a very poor facility”, which held some young people for extended periods.

Meanwhile, although there were sufficient activity places for all young people, about a fifth were still on the units during the working day.

Inspectors said more needed to be done to monitor attendance and improve behaviour in classrooms.

Nick Hardwick, chief inspector of prisons, said: “The high level of violent incidents remains a significant concern and more needs to be done to reduce it.”

Despite the criticism, inspectors praised a number of aspects of the establishment. Staff were found to manage and relate to young people confidently and work was in place to promote diversity.

Most young people were engaged with some form of education or training, and the curriculum had improved, providing a good range of programmes in education and vocational training.

“Warren Hill is very well led by a governor and management team who understand young people and their needs,” Hardwick said.

“The institution is a respectful place that is equipping young people with skills and working well to prepare them for the future.”

Michael Spurr, chief executive of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), said the governor and staff at Warren Hill were “working hard with a very complex and challenging population”.

"We are not complacent about safety and will continue to work with our partners to manage and reduce the number of violent incidents and to provide opportunities for reform and rehabilitation,” he said.

"The sustained improvements achieved at Warren Hill – particularly in education, resettlement and in tackling offender behaviour – are a tribute to the hard work of the governor, all her staff and our partners."

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