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Last Updated:  Thursday, 13 March, 2003, 16:47 GMT
Young offenders' institute 'fails' inmates
Rochester Prison, Kent
The Board of Visitors said two new wings would soon be open
Rochester Young Offenders Institute has been criticised for failing its prisoners.

A report by the prison's Board of Visitors has found major weaknesses there, with little purposeful employment or educational opportunites for inmates.

Each prison in the country has a Board of Visitors, a panel which acts as an independent watchdog and makes regular - and unannounced - visits to hear complaints and requests from prisoners.

The board at Rochester found that inmates were not being given sufficient chance to gain qualifications or work experience.

Two new wings

Last year, staff had the added burden of attending a three-month trial following a riot at the jail in October 2001.

But chairman of the Board of Visitors, Cliff Cobbin, has said improvements are now being made.

"The governor and the staff now are working flat out to make it ready," he said.

"They've got two new wings coming on stream that are being refurbished at this moment and will be ready in probably September or October.

Staff 'weren't ready'

"Then it will be down to whether the prison service can get enough money to provide the money required to run these regimes and produce these work opportunities for them."

Mr Cobbin said staff had not been prepared at the time of the riot.

He said: "The systems, regimes, work opportunities and the staff really weren't ready.

"Working with young offenders is, on the face of it, the same as working with adults - but it isn't.

'Just left in a cell'

"It's much more demanding, except for the major prisons, because as we all know, young offenders are demanding."

Sheena Bolland, from RPS Rainer, a charity which supports young offenders and people leaving care, said locking up delinquents was not the way to tackle the problem.

She said: "The system in our country is that when someone gets to a certain level of offending, they are put in a custodial institution.

"What are we achieving if these young people are really just left in a cell for so many hours a day - without any rehabilitation, or education, or something they can leave with and feel more positive about their life in the future?"

The Prison Service said that Rochester's governor, Collette Kershaw, was not able to comment on the report.

Prison riot damage revealed
24 Oct 01 |  England
Report damns 'disgrace' prison
21 Jan 00 |  UK News

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