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Wednesday, 5 February, 2003, 06:11 GMT
Sad state of youth prisons
Martin Narey
Martin Narey believes more money is the answer
The report into Ashfield young offenders' institution is the latest in a long line of condemnatory reports about England's youth jails.

A survey by the Prison Reform Trust, released in August 2002, found Ashfield had the highest number of assaults on staff and inmates of any prison in the country.

Problems at other young offenders' institutions include suicides, bullying and unsafe conditions for prisoners.

This led the Director General of the Prison Service, Martin Narey, to ask for his budget to be doubled.

'Disgraceful' regime

In 2000, police were asked to investigate allegations of a 20-year history of abuse of inmates by prison staff at the Portland Young Offenders' Institution in Dorset.

The then Chief Inspector of Prisons, Sir David Ramsbottom, said of the prison: "It appears not to be safe nor am I satisfied that the right staff are working there."

Feltham Young Offenders Institution
Bullying is a problem at some prisons
In March 2001, Sir David condemned another youth jail, Brinsford near Wolverhampton, as a "disgrace".

His report into the jail concluded: "Brinsford's regime, with all the indicators we found of self-harm, fear for safety and bullying, puts most of its juvenile population at risk of harm."

Another jail to hit the headlines was the Onley Young Offenders' Institution in Warwickshire which was the subject of a year-long inquiry.

There had been a series of complaints by inmates and the new Chief Inspector, Anne Owers, said the jail suffered from an "impoverished regime" which was "one of the worst" she had seen.

Privatisation row

Many prison reform groups have argued that privatised prisons have worse standards than those in public control.

However, Blakenhurst Prison in Worcestershire was taken back into public control in 2001.

A year later, it was described by Ms Owers as "squalid" and "rife with bullying".

Perhaps the most notorious jail in England is the Feltham Young Offenders' Institute in west London.

A series of initiatives there led to huge improvements but Martin Narey acknowledged that more needed to be done to bring the system up to an acceptable level.

After a rare favourable report in October 2002, this time into Feltham, he said a doubling of his budget would "provide the care of young people which can really turn their lives around."

See also:

20 Nov 02 | England
15 Oct 02 | England
16 Sep 02 | England
21 May 02 | England
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