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Governor of Brinsford Danny McAllister
"Sir David identifies some real areas of concern"
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Thursday, 1 March, 2001, 01:48 GMT
Youth jail branded 'disgraceful'
Brinsford youth offenders' institution
Brinsford's authorities say improvements have been made
The Chief Inspector of Prisons has condemned conditions at a young offenders' institution as a "disgrace".

Sir David Ramsbotham's comments follow an inspection which concluded there was a "breathtaking level of neglect and lack of understanding" towards inmates at HMYOI Brinsford, near Wolverhampton.

Sir David described conditions as a "stain" on the Prison Service but Brinsford's authorities said the jail had improved in all areas since the inspection in June.

"Brinsford's regime, with all the indicators we found of self-harm, fear for safety and bullying, puts most of its juvenile population at risk of harm"

Sir David Ramsbotham
Chief Inspector of Prisons
The report comes after Prison Service director general Martin Narey threatened to resign unless governors fully support his plans to improve failing jails.

Sir David said it was "inexcusable" that the report followed similar findings at some other youth offenders' institutions (YOIs).

He said: "Brinsford's regime, with all the indicators we found of self-harm, fear for safety and bullying, puts most of its juvenile population at risk of harm.

"Unless there is a rapid and purposeful improvement, then Brinsford will be a continuously failing establishment placing juveniles at risk on entry."

Last year three inmates took their lives, and there was one death there earlier this year.

Sir David Ramsbotham, chief inspector of prisons
Sir David Ramsbotham: Condemned neglect
Lessons were not being learned across the whole YOI system, Sir David said.

The inspection report highlighted a lack of purposeful activity for prisoners over 18, resulting in little or no educational framework.

But Sir David said the prison's governor was more than capable of making the necessary changes with the right support and resources.

Mr Narey said he had appointed a new governor at Brinsford to quicken the pace of change.

'Significant progress'

"Significant progress has been made since Sir David's inspection, but the challenge facing Brinsford is a large one," he said.

A new management regime due to be introduced for all YOIs in April would give extra scrutiny and greater consistency, he said.

The number of hours of "purposeful activity" was now exceeding the target of 20 hours per prisoner per week, and the jail was set to benefit from a share of 5m from April this year, added Mr Narey.

Brinsford's governor, Danny McAllister, said vast improvements had been made and he stressed that he was proud to head the institution.

Danny McAllister, governor of Brinsford
Danny McAllister: No tolerance of violence
"If the chief inspector returns today, he would find a transformed establishment," he said.

"A large number of people have worked very hard in very stressful circumstances. That must be acknowledged."

He said Brinsford had particularly improved in tackling drug abuse, violence, bullying and education.

A suicide awareness team was now in place to help the most vulnerable and staff had saved 90 prisoners last year from committing acts of self-harm.

Mr McAllister also highlighted a no-tolerance attitude to violence, and he said: "Any person committing any assault... is four times more likely to be apprehended and punished than in other youth jails".

Call for more protection

The Children's Society has called for legislation to protect under-18s to be fully implemented in prisons.

It said in the long term, young offenders should serve community sentences or be kept in local authority-run secure accommodation instead of prisons.

"If parents neglected children in this way they would be prosecuted," said society chief executive Ian Sparks.

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24 Nov 00 | UK
Call to end child jailing
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