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The BBC's social affairs editor Niall Dickson
"The report is also scathing of the prison officers"
 real 56k

Mark Leech, CE of Unlock
"What we need from the Prison Service is real actions"
 real 56k

Former Chief Inspector of Prisons Sir Stephen Tumin
"It is far too badly managed"
 real 56k

Chief Inspector of Prisons Sir David Ramsbotham
"It [Feltham] has moved on but nothing like fast enough"
 real 56k

Thursday, 26 July, 2001, 10:40 GMT 11:40 UK
Youth jail conditions 'disgraceful'
Feltham
Feltham has had seven governors in the past five years
The outgoing Chief Inspector of Prisons has published a damning report on Feltham Young Offenders Institution saying it has shown no improvement in five years and should be privatised.

Sir David Ramsbotham laid much of the blame on "reprehensible" members of the Prison Officers Association (POA) who he said were a "malign influence", blocking efforts of reform.

Prison Service director general Martin Narey responded by transferring Feltham's POA branch chairman Andrew Darkin to a new job against his will.


It needs a period of stability...some investment and ...a can-do philosophy

Nick Tascoe, governor of Feltham
The POA has threatened High Court legal action against "government interference".

Sir David's report said the half of Feltham which was still under Prison Service control should be closed to under 21s after he found conditions were "wholly unacceptable", despite three equally damning earlier reports.

The chief inspector, who steps down next week, said it was "utterly disgraceful" that there had been "virtually no change" in conditions since his first visit in 1996.

Governor of Feltham Nick Tascoe said changes had been made, but the pace of change needed to be speeded up.
David Ramsbotham
Mr Ramsbotham says privatisation may be the only answer for Feltham

He said the institution had suffered from a high turnover of governors in the past five years and needed more stability for those changes to be effectively implemented.

He told BBC News 24: "I am committed to stay here for three years.

"It (Feltham) needs a period of stability, it needs some investment and it needs a can-do philosophy."

'Wrong attitudes'

Mr Ramsbotham said west London's Feltham B, which houses young adult prisoners aged 18 to 21, was dirty, unsafe and unproductive with a staff culture that was "predominantly and profoundly negative".

"There's a culture of wrong attitudes at Feltham which has been there for far too long."


If you are going to be serious about using prison as a place for reform, a place where people learn not to reoffend, we must do something better than that for our young people

Juliet Lyon
Prison Reform Trust
Director of the Prison Reform Trust, Juliet Lyon, agreed that both resources and conditions at Feltham were extremely poor but did not think that privatisation was the answer.

She told the BBC: "It is hard to believe there have been so many broken promises about Feltham.

"As a public institution, the prison service has a public duty to improve it."

"If you are going to be serious about using prison as a place for reform, a place where people learn not to reoffend, we must do something better than that for our young people."

'Scapegoat'

National POA chairman Mark Healy said Mr Darkin had been made scapegoat.

"We have a government dictating who an independent trade union will have as an elected official," he said.

Interior of a cell at Feltham Young Offenders' Institute
Call for review of how youth jails are used

But Mr Narey said Mr Darkin had obstructed change for too long

He also repeated an earlier ultimatum to privatise the over-18 side of Feltham B - Europe's biggest youth jail - in April 2002 unless there were significant improvements.

If privatised, it would become the first youth offenders institution to be taken out of the public sector.

Prisons Minister Beverley Hughes said she would back Mr Narey's pledge to privatise.

The minister said she also wanted to know about any other individual POA committee members preventing change.

'Time to close'

Inspectors said the separate Feltham A, which deals with 15 to 17-year-olds, has shown "clear signs of improvement" since the Youth Justice Board took control last year and began setting performance targets for the Prison Service.

But at Feltham B, conditions "increased feelings of depression and despair" and officers' lack of understanding of bullying allowed it to go on "unidentified and unchecked", the report said.

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