By Dominic Casciani
Castington: Restraint use comparable to other institutions
Prison chiefs are reviewing how staff restrain inmates at a young offenders' institution (YOI) after an "unprecedented" number of injuries.
Dame Anne Owers, the prisons watchdog, said seven children and young adults suffered broken bones over two years at Castington YOI in Northumberland.
One offender was left with both his wrists broken while another suffered a broken knee.
Dame Anne said managers had offered no coherent explanation for the injuries.
Castington holds some 400 young offenders between 15 and 21 years old. It includes a specialist unit for some of the country's most serious violent young offenders.
The chief inspector of prisons for England and Wales said her team visited the institution in January and said it was performing well on most measures.
But she said there had been an "unacceptably high" number of serious injuries.
Over the course of two years, there had been seven confirmed fractures and a further three suspected breaks.
The report said the 364 uses of force during 2008 were comparable to similar establishments.
Some 280 incidents involved restraining an inmate - and the report said governors had thoroughly investigated the subsequent fractures.
"The investigation reports we looked at were inconclusive in most cases.
"However, the number of such cases was unprecedented, in our experience, and led us to conclude that Control and Restraint had not always been applied correctly.
"This finding was consistent with the views expressed by young people in our groups. One of the C&R instructors also said that staff did not always take sufficient time during a live incident, and that injuries possibly occurred as they rushed to secure C&R locks."
Last year the Ministry of Justice accepted most of the recommendations of a review of restraint techniques following inquests into two controversial deaths.
Phil Wheatley, head of the National Offender Management Service, said: "The chief inspector rightly recognises the effective management at Castington which provides a purposeful regime with good relationships between staff and prisoners.
"Any use of force that results in injury is fully investigated, and the incidents in which young people sustained broken wrists prompted a review into the use of restraint at Castington.
"We accepted and implemented the chief inspector's recommendation that a further and comprehensive review should be undertaken by a senior figure, independent of the establishment, so that lessons can be learned and the possibility of any repetitions minimised. This investigation has now been commissioned."
But Penelope Gibbs of the Prison Reform Trust said: "This report raises very troubling questions about the use of force by the prison service on some of our most troubled children.
"We need to get to the heart of what's gone wrong quickly, effectively and objectively. Another prison service internal review would be an inadequate response to such a dreadful record of injury."