Young offenders in adult prisons
12 Mar 2009 10:06 AM
Almost all of the comments of young offenders in HMP Greenock and HMP Perth about their experience were positive. However, almost all of the comments of young offenders in Cornton Vale were negative, according to the latest report by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons published yesterday.
The main findings of Dr Andrew McLellan's report are:
- Young offenders (YOs) in all three locations feel safe and suicide risk management is handled well
- The conditions in Friarton Hall in Perth are good although Darroch Hall in Greenock needs to be refurbished. The conditions in Bruce House in Cornton Vale are poor
- Access to toilets during certain parts of the evening in Bruce House is unacceptable
- The young offenders in Friarton and Darroch have a much more useful, stimulating and productive day than the YOs in Cornton Vale, and indeed than the YOs in Polmont
- Arrangements for maintaining family contact are good and there is evidence that this is particularly enhanced in Darroch as a result of the young offenders being located closer to their families
- Work opportunities are excellent in Friarton and in Darroch, but poor in Cornton Vale
- A wide range of learning opportunities in all three locations is focused appropriately on needs
- All three locations have established excellent links with community organisations who contribute greatly to the reintegration process
- When staff are focused on, and have an interest in, a particular group, then that group is better off - particularly if it is in a smaller unit close to families
- The experience of female young offenders in Cornton Vale is not good. There is very little for them to do and they consistently mix with adult prisoners in various circumstances
- A smaller unit, specifically for women under 21 years of age should be considered
Dr McLellan said:
"This was an inspection of the conditions in which young offenders are held and the treatment they receive in Friarton Hall in HMP Perth, Darroch Hall in HMP Greenock, and Bruce House in HMP Cornton Vale.
"Almost all of the comments of the young male offenders in Greenock and Perth about their experience were positive. Almost all of the comments of the young female offenders in Cornton Vale were negative. The difference between the attitudes of the young men and the young women is striking: the different attitudes arise from quite different environments and situations, and are not merely fanciful.
"Four key factors contribute to the difference.
"In Greenock and in Perth the young men live in their own separate hall, quite apart from adult prisoners. In Cornton Vale the young women live mostly in half of an adult hall and partly in two or three other halls across the prison. It is so much more difficult to develop a sense of community and of a unit with a common life than it is in the young men's units. Nearly every part of the life of young women in Cornton Vale is shared with adult prisoners.
"In the dining halls in Darroch and Friarton the atmosphere is positive, with everyone sitting at tables. The food is exceptionally good and there is plenty of it. In Cornton Vale the young women have to carry their meals along long and twisting corridors in order to eat them, sometimes perched on the arm of a sofa in a cold recreation room where they are sometimes joined by adults. The food itself is not nearly so attractive nor as plentiful.
"Recreation facilities for the young women are practically non-existent. There is not even a television in one of the recreation rooms. For the young men there is satellite television, pool, table tennis, and electronic games. Hardly any young women attend PE, and when they do the sessions are held with adults: the provision in both Darroch and Friarton is very good and tailored to young people.
"There is very little for the young women to do. In Darroch and in Friarton nearly everyone was at work: the opportunities include machine and wood assembly workshops, gardening, catering, car valeting, painting and decorating and hairdressing.
"The arrangement by which prisoners under 21 years of age in Cornton Vale are in several respects merely a small part of a larger prison is not working. At the very least they deserve separate accommodation and a separate regime and separate staff.
"It is not only in comparison with the circumstances of young women in Cornton Vale that the circumstances of young men in Darroch Hall and Friarton Hall seem good. It is also in comparison with the circumstances of young men in Polmont. Perhaps that difference is the most powerful argument there is for the harm done by overcrowding. For in these two smaller halls where there is no overcrowding this report gives evidence that so many things are done well: the prisoners feel safe, relationships are first-class, food is very good and prisoners spend a useful day out of cell at work or in education. Overcrowding in Polmont makes so much of that impossible."
Today's report relates to a focused inspection of the conditions in which young offenders are held and the treatment they receive in smaller units within adult establishments.