24 Nov 2015
Howard League responds to Feltham prison inspection report
The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons’ report on the treatment of children at Feltham prison, published today (Tuesday 24 November 2015).
Inspectors visited Feltham’s ‘A’ side, which holds boys aged 15 to 18, in July and August. They found that the prison had improved since its last inspection.
There were, however, a number of concerns, particularly related to safety and the time prisoners spend out of their cells. The inspectors noted that “all too often the boys it holds have been written off by community agencies, and the resources and staff Feltham has to meet the needs of the boys held are insufficient for the task”.
Inspectors found that there had been a high number of violent incidents – 209 in the six months leading up to the inspection – and 37 per cent of the boys in the prison said that they had been victimised by others. In one incident, recorded on CCTV, a female officer was kicked and punched as she crouched over a boy who was being attacked.
Inspectors remarked on the high use of segregation at Feltham, and found that children were required to share a bleak and unsuitable care and separation unit with young adults.
Boys were spending less time out of their cells than at the time of the previous inspection. On average, they spent about 19 hours locked up on weekdays and 20 hours locked up each day at weekends. They had 30 minutes’ outdoor exercise a day – or less. Boys complained that they were hungry.
The Howard League’s legal advice line has received 117 separate enquiries in the last 12 months about issues arising at Feltham prison. The calls were in relation to 100 young people, including 32 children. Many callers have complained of a lack of safety and a high risk of violence.
The charity has been so worried about the use of solitary confinement and physical restraint on children at Feltham that it asked the Hounslow Safeguarding Children Board to conduct an inquiry and is meeting to discuss progress on Friday (27 November 2015).
Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “Violence appears to be a fact of daily life in Feltham prison, and putting children into solitary confinement appears to be the management tool deployed in an attempt to contain it. We know about a 17-year-old who was segregated for eight days, being let out of his cell for only 30 minutes a day. He told our staff he didn’t know why he was being held in solitary and he was sinking into depression.
“We know about another 17-year-old locked in his cell with no contact with any other children, and with no idea of what he had to do to get back to a normal regime. We know about yet another 17-year-old locked in his cell for two weeks and only allowed out for 30 minutes a day to have a shower and make one phone call. He had no education and told our lawyers he was getting very depressed.
“We were so concerned about a fourth 17-year-old who was routinely segregated for long periods that we referred the case to the Prison and Probation Ombudsman. The bottom line is that children are not safe in Feltham. The courts must stop sending children to a place where they are at significant and imminent risk of violence.”
Notes to editors
- The Howard League for Penal Reform is the oldest penal reform charity in the world. It is a national charity working for less crime, safer communities and fewer people in prison.
- A copy of the Feltham A inspection report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website.
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