On the 18th July 2017 the Chief Inspector of Prisons, Peter Clarke, published his annual report for the period 2016-17.

Here’s what it said…

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This report makes grim reading. Whilst there are some positives, they take some finding and the overall picture isn’t good.
What follows is a necessarily brief summary.

To read the report in full, you can download it by clicking here.

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Four YOIs were inspected during the reporting period 2016-17. Only the two smallest were considered to be reasonably safe for children and staff.

‘There had been increasing violence, and measures to address this had reduced time out of cell, so many boys served most of their sentence locked up.’ p.61

Previous inspections’ recommendations…

Recommendations for the inspected YOIs from previous inspection reports and the degree to which they had been implemented:

  • Safety – 28% achieved; 21% partially achieved; 51% not achieved
  • Respect – 29% achieved; 18% partially achieved; 53% not achieved
  • Activity – 43% achieved; 7% partially achieved; 50% not achieved
  • Resettlement – 27% achieved; 14% partially achieved; 59% not achieved

‘Behaviour management continued to be ineffective, despite some positive initiatives, and violence and intimidating behaviour remained a feature of life in YOIs. There was no coordinated national approach to address this growing issue.’ p.62

  • Children with disabilities – were more likely to feel unsafe – p.64
  • Looked After Children – were less likely to receive a weekly visit – p.64

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All three STCs were inspected during 2016-17 and found wanting in a number of areas.

‘Overall we found a decline in the conditions in which children were detained.’ p.68

  • Staff shortages – had a detrimental impact on almost all aspects of the centres
  • Behaviour management – required attention in all STCs
  • Use of force – was high. Application of rules was inconsistent, as was the use of rewards and sanctions
  • Violence – levels of violence were high – both assaults on staff and on other young people. There was some under-recording of violent incidents
  • Conditions – the physical conditions of the STCs had deteriorated

Some positives

Despite a number of criticisms of staff attitudes and practice, the report did highlight some positive areas

  • Efforts to protect – “…we saw many instances of staff putting themselves at risk to protect children in their care.” p.63
  • Respect – “…61% of children said that most staff treated them with respect.” p.64
  • Health – “Newly arrived boys generally received prompt comprehensive health assessments.” p.64
  • Resettlement – “We found well-organised, committed teams of case workers and good use of ROTL…” p.66
  • Community ties – “We found some good work to support children to maintain ties with family and friends…” p.66
  • Good work – “There was some good work at all the centres.” p.69

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Final word…

The Chief Inspector’s tone in this report is, perhaps, the biggest indication of just how bad things are in the secure estate for children (and for adults!) at the current time.

In his interview on the BBC Radio 4 World At One programme, he seems both angry and frustrated.

Judge for yourself here, where he describes the lack of improvement as “hardly surprising.”

‘One thing [the Ministry of Justice] could start doing is taking our recommendations seriously.’ Peter Clarke, Chief Inspector of Prisons – BBC Radio 4 World At One – 18th July 2017


Clearly it’s time for a change in the way we do youth custody! The first thing we need is a vision…

What do you think?…

  • Do you work in youth justice or an allied role – what are your thoughts on the way custody works for children?
  • Please let me know your thoughts…   Leave a comment below or click here.

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© Jonny Matthew 2017