Frances Crook's blog · 3 Mar 2020
Parc prison and its unit for children
The inspection report on the children’s prison inside G4S run Parc prison is broadly positive, but look closely and there are disturbing undercurrents. However, I cannot confirm that the inspection is accurate as G4S is refusing to permit us a visit – yet again a private prison is being secretive, makes me wonder why.
On the positive side, the inspectorate reports good relationships between staff and children. I would hope so! I take that as a given when staff are caring for children – it should hardly be something to be praised. It sharply brings into focus how low our expectations of prisons holding children are when staff are praised for being what staff should be.
There are after all only 39 boys in the unit. Yet, there are still multiple problems highlighted in the report. Quite a contrast to the inspection report published just a few days ago of the local authority run secure unit for children at Barton Moss which was rated as Outstanding.
Use of force by G4S staff in Parc is high and three quarters of the boys said they had been physically restrained, including staff deliberately using pain. It was noteworthy that black and minority children seem to experience physical force more than white children.
Discrimination against BAME children appears to be endemic as not one BAME child was on the highest level of the incentives scheme, and I note that the inspectors did not investigate this properly by asking if any BAME children had ever been on the highest level. I will be asking this question.
Whilst inspectors praised the prison for getting the children out of their cells for longer than in other prisons, the boys were still locked in in their cells for 15 hours a day on average during the week and 18 hours at weekends.
There is a mention of Skype, which apparently is used to promote family contact, but that’s not what I saw when I visited the unit, admittedly a few years ago. It is interesting to contrast this with what I saw in Hydebank Wood just a couple of months ago, the prison in Northern Ireland that holds both children and adult women, where Skype is freely available to all children when they want to use it, as is the internet.
Finally, when we come to release and resettlement, I have another question about what is happening and how it was reported by the inspectorate. After spending huge amounts of money incarcerating children, it is well known that they are often dumped into unsuitable and often unsafe accommodation with nothing much to do all day and little support. It is only through the persistent efforts of the Howard League legal team that many children get anything like suitable care on release. I am suspicious when the inspectors say reintegration works well in Parc. Our legal team received 32 calls about young people in Parc last year – a significant number were about the failure to provide proper care and accommodation on release. There seems to be a chasm here in what the paperwork says in Parc and what the children actually experience.
So, let us in to see for ourselves, G4S.