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16 Nov 2021

Howard League responds to Cookham Wood inspection report

The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons’ report on Cookham Wood prison, published today (Tuesday 16 November).

Inspectors visited the prison, in Kent, in August this year, while it was holding 87 boys aged 15 to 18. They found that the children were locked up for most of the day with little to do, in conditions even worse than when the watchdog last inspected the prison in 2019.

The inspection team found parts of the prison where boys would typically spend only four hours out of their cells on weekdays and as little as two hours at weekends.

Violence had soared since the last inspection, and restrictions imposed in an attempt to address this – such as reducing group sizes and keeping children apart – had in fact created even more division and conflict.

The findings are in line with what the Howard League has seen through its legal work with children and young adults in Cookham Wood and other prisons.

Andrew Neilson, Director of Campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “When a child is in trouble, we should do all we can to keep them safe, guide them away from crime and give them a brighter future.

“This does not happen in Cookham Wood, where boys are held in their cells for hours on end and exposed to violence and abuse. Even when the prison is only half-full, the environment is so toxic as to create more crime and distress. It is no place for a child.

“It is time for a new approach that stops children being hurt and helps them to realise their potential. It starts with keeping them out of prison and giving them the care and support they need.”

Notes to editors

  1. 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.
  2. More information about the work of the Howard League legal team can be found on the charity’s website.
  3. A copy of the Cookham Wood inspection report will be available from Tuesday 16 November on the Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons website.


Rob Preece
Campaigns and Communications Manager
Mobile: +44 (0)7714 604955

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