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Friday, 11 August, 2000, 08:13 GMT 09:13 UK
Jail boss resigns over conditions
Offenders in a cell at Feltham Young Offenders Instiution
Offenders at Feltham can spend hours locked up in their cells
A deputy governor at Britain's biggest young offenders' institution has resigned in protest at the "Dickensian conditions" its inmates endure.

Ian Thomas told BBC News he was no longer prepared to put up with the situation at Feltham, in west London, which houses more than 800 young offenders.

Mr Thomas said he decided to hand in his resignation when he arrived at work to find that a 17-year-old inmate had attempted suicide.

The teenager should have been in a special juvenile unit for offenders aged under 18 but overcrowding meant he was forced to stay with older offenders.

Sir David Ramsbotham
Sir David Ramsbotham: Report was highly critical of Feltham
The juvenile unit has 180 spaces but there are currently 280 juvenile offenders at Feltham.

The overflow is being housed with older offenders in conditions Mr Thomas described as Dickensian.

Inmates there are forced to spend hours in their cells with little to do.

Feltham Young Offenders Institution has been criticised in the past for its conditions.

'Institutionalised deprivation'

In March 1999, the chief inspectors of prisons, Sir David Ramsbotham, launched a scathing attack on conditions at Feltham saying they were "totally unacceptable in a civilised country".

He described the care of boys under 18 and those on remand as "institutionalised deprivation".

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

Sir David called for a new centre to be built to relieve the pressures.

In February this year Sir David praised progress being made at Feltham but said changes had yet to result in real improvements in the treatment and conditions for young prisoners.

The Prison Service said Feltham was benefiting from additional investment.

But the higher than expected number of juveniles being sent by the courts was creating pressure on its accommodation.

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.

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