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Tuesday, 15 October, 2002, 05:31 GMT 06:31 UK
'Rotten' youth jail is improving
Feltham Young Offenders' Institution
There have been a number of suicides at Feltham
A youth jail condemned as "rotten to the core" has fundamentally changed for the better, say prison inspectors.

Feltham Young Offenders' Institution in west London is "off the critical list" and "well on the way to becoming a healthy and positive environment", according to a report.

The jail was once described as "one of the worst" jails in the prison system by former prisons chief inspector Sir David Ramsbotham.

It was plagued by reports of "Dickensian" conditions, racism and violence, including the murder of inmate Zahid Mubarek, who was bludgeoned to death by his cellmate.

The Feltham of old, criticised by everyone who saw it for as long as any of us can remember, is long gone

Martin Narey, Director General of the Prison Service

But Feltham has vastly improved, according to an inspection report compiled by HM chief inspector of prisons Anne Owers following an eight-day visit in January.

It reads: "We found an establishment whose culture, regime and vision were fundamentally changed.

"While there remains much to do before Feltham can be considered a fully healthy establishment, the changes we observed since the last inspection in 2000 meant that, after a period of intensive care, Feltham was off the critical list."

Feltham takes juveniles aged 15 to 17 and young offenders aged 17 to 21 from more than 120 courts.

The report suggests its large catchment area be reviewed and recommends areas where it still needs to improve, including anti-bullying policies and race relations.

Martin Narey, Director General of the Prison Service said, "We are all aware there is much more to do yet, particularly in the care of those aged 18 and over.

"But the Feltham of old, criticised by everyone who saw it for as long as any of us can remember, is long gone and has been replaced by an establishment of which we can be proud."

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The BBC's Rory McLean
"Feltham has seen highly critical reports from successive chief inspectors"

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