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Tuesday, 8 February, 2000, 05:36 GMT
Praise for problem youth jail

Feltham inmates Many Feltham inmates are mentally disturbed

The chief inspector of prisons has praised the progress being made at a young offenders' institution which was described a year ago as being "rotten to the core".

Sir David Ramsbotham said Feltham Young Offenders Institute in west London was a "very different place from the one we left" after the implementation of a 12m action plan.

But his report on Feltham also warned that the changes had yet to result in real improvements in treatment and conditions for young prisoners.

Ramsbotham Sir David Ramsbotham: Commitment to change is impressive
It said dire staff recruitment problems threatened to stall further developments.

Sir David warned that high living costs and low local unemployment would make it very hard for Feltham to hire staff.

He pointed out that baggage handlers at nearby Heathrow Airport could earn more than prison officers.

Although there had been a change in atmosphere in the prison's healthcare unit which was "nothing short of dramatic", inspectors warned that 18 out of the 23 inmates staying there had such huge problems that they should be in hospital, not prison.

The chief medical inspector on the team said they were "the most seriously mentally disturbed group of young men" he had come across in his career.

Young prisoners were still spending too long in their cells, with an average of only 15 hours of activity a week, and full-time education was available for only 90 inmates, leaving 700 with nothing.

Split in two

However, population pressures had been eased, "admirable" education and PE co-ordinators had been brought in, and "disgraceful warehousing arrangements" for prisoners on remand had been stopped.

As part of a reorganisation of the prison system, the jail is to be split into two separate parts, one for under-18s and one for young prisoners aged 18-21.

Sir David said the commitment to change was "impressive" and predicted that inspectors would find more improvements when they returned later this year.

When his previous report on Feltham YOI was published, in March last year, Sir David said it was easily the most disturbing he had had to make in his time as prisons inspector.

Conditions in the establishment were an affront to civilisation, he warned.

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17 Apr 99 |  UK
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