Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Children living in “dilapidated” conditions in juvenile prison

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Ofsted issued an urgent warning to a juvenile prison after inspectors discovered that children were living in a “dilapidated” environment and subjected to “unjustified” and sometimes unlawful acts of violence.

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab was notified of the “chaotic” conditions at the Oakhill Safe Training Center, which currently houses 46 boys aged 12-17, after an inspection by Ofsted, HMI Prisons and the CQC found the security systems were safe Children were in a mess “.

Activists urged the government to revise its approach to child detention in the face of the devastating results at the G4S-run Milton Keynes Prison – the only facility of its kind still open after two more were closed for closure by two others – “Urgently to reconsider”. to mistakes.

Earlier this year ministers decided to move all children at the Rainsbrook Safe Training Center in Rugby to other detention centers, including Oakhill, due to “very serious neglect” at the facility.

In March 2020, the scandalized Medway Safe Training Center in Kent was closed after inspectors found excessive use of force against children and failure of staff to deal with incidents.

During a visit to Oakhill between October 4th and 8th, inspectors found that children had been subjected to “frequent incidents of violence” that were sometimes “unjustified and against the law”.

They found that the use of violence and physical restraint of children were “ineffective” with “bad practices not being identified and addressed quickly enough” while staff were often “not provided with all the information they could need to protect the children Children need “.

“Senior executives have failed to ensure that concerns and allegations are reported to legal authorities as necessary. There is a significant backlog of protection concerns awaiting action. Children therefore remain in danger of being seriously harmed, ”said the inspectors.

The results, which Ofsted said will be published in full in due course, also show that the front lines at Oakhill are “poorly managed and supported”. temporary “relationships with children.

Inspectors said the decision to lock children in their rooms for an average of 19 hours a day in July and August was “totally inappropriate and risk averse” and meant that their experiences “barely met the minimum standards of human decency”.

They said that while a new interim center director has “started to exert some influence” they “have no confidence in the sustainability of progress.”

Ofsted Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman said, “This is a center of chaos, with children bearing the brunt of staff shortages and poor organization.”

Mr. Raab now has 28 calendar days to respond to Oftsed and explain how the care, safety and wellbeing of children in Oakhill are being improved, both immediately and in the longer term.

In response to the findings, the Attorney General tweeted, “The situation in Oakhill is unacceptable and the details of the Ofsted report are truly shocking. I am now considering urgent next steps for the future of Oakhill and will shortly be making a plan. “

It is unclear where the Oakhill children would go if the center closed. Concerns have been raised that some of those who were in Rainsbrook before it closed were being transferred to juvenile detention centers (YOIs), which are designed for older teenagers and young men and could be viewed as inappropriate.

The Conservative Manifesto of 2019 included a commitment to bring “safe schools” to justice, which would focus on education and rehabilitation and would be run by education providers rather than prison service. The Justice Department has said these plans are under way, but there is no clear timetable.

Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said the report shows that the entire approach to child detention “needs urgent reconsideration,” and questions the government’s commitment to securing schools.

“It looks dangerous like mannequins when the first example has yet to be opened nearly five years after the government announced this model as the way forward,” he continued.

“It is time the government sought expert help to work out a practical national strategy. Without them, they are condemning more children to be abused in a broken system. “

Frances Crook, executive director of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “Creating safe training centers was a” dangerous experiment that has failed, injuring and abusing hundreds of children while private companies took advantage of their misery. It’s time for a different approach. “

A spokesman for the Child Welfare Service said: “Improvements have been made since then and G4S has appointed a seasoned interim director – but it is evident that this has to go further and faster. We are now considering urgent next steps for Oakhill’s future and all options remain on the table. “

A G4S spokesman for Oakhill said a number of issues at the center were caused by the impact of the pandemic on the center’s workforce and operations, and said that “these challenges are being addressed” by setting up an external response team.

“As a result, the stability and regime at Oakhill is improving. Over the past month our team has been working out of the room for 13 hours per child on weekdays and 12 hours per day on weekends, ”they said.

“From June to the end of September, the total number of incidents fell by 47 percent and the ‘use of force’ by 61 percent, according to internal management data. We take Ofsted’s results very seriously and are taking further action to build on recent positive progress at Oakhill. “

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