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Friday, March 26, 1999 Published at 03:44 GMT


'Appalling' life of young inmates

Young offenders are subjected to "institutionalised deprivation"

By BBC Home Affairs Correspondent Jane Peel

Conditions and treatment of inmates at England's biggest young offenders' institution have been described as "disgraceful", "appalling", and "totally unacceptable in a civilised country".

The Chief Inspector of Prisons, Sir David Ramsbotham, says Feltham in west London is "rotten to the core".

Jane Peel reports: "Institutionalised deprivation"
He says the problems are symptomatic of the institutionalised neglect of young offenders at Feltham.

In his last report on Feltham two years ago, Sir David described the institution as a gigantic transit camp - filthy and bursting at the seams. He made almost 200 recommendations.

[ image: Sir David Ramsbotham: The report is the most disturbing he has made]
Sir David Ramsbotham: The report is the most disturbing he has made
But he reports that little has been achieved since. In many ways conditions are even worse.

He is particularly scathing about the care of boys under 18 and those on remand. He calls their treatment "institutionalised deprivation".

Many were reportedly locked in their cells for 22 hours a day, forced to sleep on dirty, damaged mattresses and wear the same underwear for a week.

Sir David says he saw isolated pockets of good practice, demonstrating that the problem was not solely one of resources, but also one of staff attitude.

Clive Welsh, governor of Feltham acknowledges some of the problems
But he accepts that Feltham is overwhelmed. It is struggling to cope with the increasing numbers sent to it by courts in and around London.

Sir David is therefore calling for a new centre to be built to relieve the pressures.

Meanwhile the prison service has set up a taskforce to implement improvements within six months and has provided extra money for Feltham.

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