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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 September 2007, 23:01 GMT 00:01 UK
Inmates 'forcibly strip-searched'
Werrington Young Offenders' Institution
The institution has been referred to a council over the searches
Young offenders are being forcibly strip searched according to a report by prison inspectors.

On one occasion at Werrington Youth Offenders' Institution, Staffs, an inmate had his clothing cut off during a search, the inspectors said.

The Howard League for Penal Reform, which campaigns for better treatment of prisoners, has referred it as a child protection case to council bosses.

Inspectors did however report that in other areas Werrington had improved.

A league spokesman said it was contacting Stoke-on-Trent City Council about the use of forcible and routine strip searches.

The weaknesses we identified in safety were serious and required urgent management attention
Anne Owers, chief inspector of prisons

Frances Crook, director of the Howard League said: "This is not the first time Werrington YOI has been criticised for its strip searching policies by the Chief Inspectorate of Prisons."

Inspectors found evidence of the searches when they arrived for a surprise visit at Werrington after population pressures exposed serious shortfalls in safety at the institution, Anne Owers, Chief Inspector of Prisons said.

She said while basic levels of safety were maintained, inspectors were concerned there were routine strip searches on reception.

There was also poor management of safeguarding, weak anti-bullying arrangements, and suicide and self-harm prevention needed improvement, according to the inspectors.

Population 'crisis'

In particular Ms Owers said inspectors were concerned about the forcible strip search of an agitated inmate, involving three officers holding him down while his clothing was cut off, despite the fact he was willing to comply.

"Werrington had been through a trying period as a result of the population crisis," she said.

"Though it had continued to improve in a number of areas, the weaknesses we identified in safety were serious and required urgent management attention.

"Werrington is still some distance from its stated ambition of being a safe and effective 'secure college'."

Phil Wheatley, Director General of the Prison Service, said generally it was a good report, and said officers had acted "correctly" during the search of the inmate in question.

'Disturbed' inmate

"As to the incident involving the strip search of the young person, I have seen the video and reviewed the matter in great detail," he said.

"I am convinced that at no point in the process was he compliant and the staff involved dealt with the incident correctly in the circumstances, when faced by a difficult and disturbed young man."

Inspectors did say that in other respects Werrington had risen to the challenges facing it, and had improved and developed in a number of areas.

In particular, purposeful activity had improved with young people spending sufficient time out of their cells and with a good range of education and skills.




SEE ALSO
Youth jail has to refuse locals
01 Nov 06 |  Staffordshire

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