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Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 October, 2003, 01:01 GMT 02:01 UK
Young prisoners urinated in bags
Castington
Castington can hold 400 inmates
Young prisoners being ferried to and from a young offenders institution in Northumberland were forced to urinate in plastic bags, a report has revealed.

The report by the chief inspector of prisons, Anne Owers, said youngsters under escort to Castington Young Offenders Institute were not allowed enough toilet stops.

The report also says most youngsters reported spending more than 22 hours a day in cells, with virtually no access to vocational or skills training.

While the report praises many aspects of the unit, it makes 117 recommendation to improve the lot of inmates, aged 21 and under.

Castington housed 292 inmates at the time of the five-day inspection in June, 2003 - many on remand. It has a capacity of 400.

The report also highlighted concerns about forced strip searches and the handcuffing of juveniles.

Ms Owers said: "Young offender institutions, like Castington, are among the most difficult to run safely and positively.

"The young people they hold are often volatile and damaged, with severe educational and social deficits.

"There were clear weaknesses in child protection arrangements, and there was a need for better communication and co-ordination in relation to the identification and management of young prisoners at risk."

Staff and managers at Castington were unclear about what they should, or did, record
Chief Inspector of Prisons, Anne Owers

She called for improvements to reception procedures at the unit.

She added: "We examined a number of prisoner escort records that indicated that, although young people had completed their court appearance in the morning, they had not arrived at Castington until early evening.

"During this inspection four young adults arrived so late that they received little in respect of first night procedures.

"Most young people were told where they were being taken to after their court appearance, but there was no written information for them or their families describing the process of reception, or what to expect when they arrived at the establishment.

"Some staff recollected incidents of young people alighting from the escort vehicles with plastic bags in which they had urinated.

"This was not frequent, but in our survey, 78% of young adult respondents said that frequency of toilet stops on escort journeys was bad or very bad. Generally, however, they felt safe on escort journeys."

Ms Owers also expressed concern and incidents involving discipline and strip searching.

'Physical contact'

She said: "Rules on the use of force and strip-searching across the juvenile estate need to be amended, to fully reflect child protection concerns, as well as security.

"Staff and managers at Castington were unclear about what they should, or did, record.

"It was not clear whether apparently high levels of use of force, particularly for juveniles, were a consequence of the meticulous recording of every kind of physical contact, or a too swift recourse to the use of control and restraint.

"With fewer work opportunities and in some cases a reluctance to engage in formal education, young adults spent far too much time in their cells.

"Around a third of them told us that they were out of cell less than two hours a day."

Phil Wheatley, Director General of the Prison Service said: "Castington is a good prison and I am pleased that the Chief Inspector acknowledges this.

"I am however pleased that Castington is addressing the Chief Inspector's concerns by actively looking to increase the time that young prisoners spend out of their cells through the use of on-unit activities, gym facilities and education."



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