Feltham YOI: Declining safety and care
In July, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons invoked the Urgent Notification process in respect of HMYOI Feltham A. He identified "an extraordinary decline in safety and care for inmates" and as a result, the Ministry of Justice has announced a temporary ban on sending anymore children there (Siddique, 2019).
Whilst this decision is welcome, it is unclear what action will be taken to ensure the institution upholds the basic human rights and addresses the pressing needs of the children who are already detained there. Furthermore, thousands of young people continue to be subject to systemic failures in YOIs across the country. It is also necessary to highlight that these failures have a disproportionate impact on Black and Brown communities. Earlier this year, the prisons watchdog highlighted that more than half of the inmates held in prisons for young people in England and Wales are from a Black and minority ethnic (BME) background, which is the highest proportion on record (Grierson, 2019).
The inspection of Feltham A highlighted that:
Forty percent of teenagers said they had felt unsafe at some point during their stay.
The number of violent incidents had risen by 45% since January, despite the number of inmates falling.
The level of self-harm had tripled since the previous inspection and was 14 times higher than in January 2017.
Seventy-four percent of teenagers reported they had been physically restrained by staff, with more than 700 incidents in the last six months.
Furthermore, it was also made apparent that many children are categorised as "having profound needs for support and follow-up care," however there are "systemic weaknesses in meeting these needs" (BBC, 2019). Incarcerating young people is evidently unsafe and causing serious harm. The continued disregard for the lives and wellbeing of young people that are kept in YOIs is a national disgrace. If the government really wanted to address youth violence and crime, then they could begin by investing in adequate mental health support, education and employment opportunities for young people, rather than ostracising and incarcerating them in conditions which are clearly very dangerous.
BBC (2019). Young offenders 'set up to fail' on their release. [online] BBC News. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-49267919 [Accessed 8 Aug. 2019].
Grierson, J. (2019). More than half of young people in jail are of BME background. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/jan/29/more-than-half-young-people-jail-are-of-bme-background [Accessed 13 Aug. 2019].Hills, M. and Rogers, L. (2019). Boris Johnson: Does his cabinet reflect 'modern Britain'?. [online] BBC News. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-49034735 [Accessed 5 Aug. 2019].
Siddique, H. (2019). Children will not be placed at Feltham for time being – minister. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/jul/24/children-will-not-be-placed-at-feltham-for-time-being-minister [Accessed 8 Aug. 2019].