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Thursday, 23 August, 2001, 01:58 GMT 02:58 UK
Young offenders still suffer violence
Portland Young Offenders' Institution
Levels of violence have raised concern
Young offenders at one of Britain's toughest institutions still fear bullying and violence, more than a year after a damning inspection, says a report.

BBC's Home Affairs correspondent Jon Silverman reports on the findings of the then Chief Inspector of Prisons about Portland Young Offenders' Institution in Devon.

A report by the Chief Inspector of Prisons has found that inmates at a young offenders' institution, that was heavily criticised for brutality by staff, are still complaining about unacceptable levels of violence.

Last year, the police began an investigation into allegations that prison officers at Portland Young Offenders Institution in Dorset had assaulted inmates over a 14-month period.

Thursday's report said the jail had shown great improvement, but there were still concerns about bullying and violence.

The report was completed by the outgoing Chief Inspector, Sir David Ramsbotham, before his retirement last month.

Showers unsafe

Inmates told the inspectors that some parts of the jail, such as the showers and recesses, were unsafe.

They were said to be poorly supervised by staff, allowing intimidation and violence to take place.

The report expresses concern about the induction and reception unit.

Sir David Ramsbotham
Sir David Rambotham: concerns about bullying

Sir David says, "It appears not to be safe nor am I satisfied that the right staff are working there".

He calls for an urgent review of the induction process at Portland.

Portland houses up to 575 male offenders aged between 15 and 21.

The Youth Justice Board has already announced that the holding of juveniles at the jail is to end because too many are a long distance from home.

Accommodation 'ghastly'

Sir David Ramsbotham acknowledges that the accommodation is "ghastly" but commends staff.

He singles out one member of staff for praise, describing the officer's "inspirational" efforts in improving the standard of care.

But more than a third of the inmates who completed a questionnaire said they felt unsafe in the showers, while 22% felt unsafe or very unsafe in the segregation unit.

The Howard League for Penal Reform, which was instrumental in publicising the original allegations of violence, said it was concerned at the Chief Inspector's report.

It is asking Dorset Social Services whether its child protection team intends to investigate the latest allegations.

The Director-general of the Prison Service, Martin Narey, said the governor and his staff could take pride in the progress which had been made.

Portland was now providing some of the best juvenile care in the service.

See also:

15 Mar 01 | UK
England's failing prisons
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