Inspection Findings Come A Year After Allegations That Staff Had Physically Abused Young Offenders
Expert civil liberties lawyers at law firm Irwin Mitchell are calling for urgent improvement to child safety at Medway Secure Training Centre after the scandal-hit youth prison was rated unsafe by watchdogs.
Medway Secure Training Centre, which holds children as young as 12, was taken over from G4S by the National Offender Management Service (now HM Prison and Probation Service) in July 2016.
The report issued yesterday, produced jointly by Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prison, comes less than two years after seven workers at the centre were suspended after undercover filming by the BBC Panorama made allegations of physical abuse. Criminal proceedings in relation to the incidents captured in the footage are ongoing.
But the latest inspection, carried out on March 6, found fresh failings.
Security arrangements remained inadequate, child protection records were incomplete, and areas of the jail where children reported feeling unsafe, such as stairwells and the education block, were not covered by CCTV.
The inspectors say that while steady progress has been made in a number of areas since their previous visit, overall it remained inadequate, with concerns including;
- the centre is failing to recruit staff who are trained to work with under-18s, with most staff and managers having little understanding of risks to young people, such as child sexual exploitation and radicalisation.
- Young inmates have even been able to watch sexually explicit material on television, with measures to prevent a repeat of these incidents yet to be put in place
Lack of auditing and recording systems has meant horticultural tools have gone missing, with staff unaware of the loss or the discrepancy of the records
- Body-worn cameras issued to staff were not always switched on when they should have been
The total number of incidents of violence and use of force at the facility increased from an average of 20 incidents per month to 40 in February this year, while since last year’s inspection, there have been "five serious injuries or warning signs" identified during restraints — in all of which children said they could not breathe.
Expert Opinion“The safety and welfare of young people housed within Medway’s walls should be the number one priority of staff.
“The findings of this joint report are shocking and it is clear that urgent change is needed to safeguard the young people there and provide them with the life skills and positive behaviours to equip them for life outside of institutions.
“I would urge HM Prison and Probation Service to act quickly on the report’s findings, not only to make urgent improvements but to offer reassurance to those whose children are living within the facility.” Gus Silverman - Associate Solicitor
The secure training centre holds up to 76 male and female inmates aged 12- 18 but is only at 50% capacity.
The aim of the facility is to provide young people between the ages of 12 and 18 with core education in line with the national curriculum, as well as vocational education, advice, guidance and support for the resettlement of inmates, enabling them to reintegrate successfully into the community upon release.
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