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25 Jun 2019

Howard League responds to Werrington prison inspection

The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons’ report on Werrington prison, published today (Tuesday 25 June). The prison holds about 120 boys aged 15 to 18.

Inspectors visited the prison, near Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire, in February and found that it had become less safe, with increased use of force by staff and high levels of violence.

The Howard League legal team runs a free and confidential legal advice line for children and young people in custody.

The Howard League has received 23 calls in the last year in respect of boys in Werrington, with fewer than half of the calls coming directly from the teenagers themselves. The charity is concerned that the regime in the prison may be making it difficult for young people to access the service directly.

The most common concerns raised in calls to the Howard League were in relation to adjudications; transfers to other prisons; and segregation and treatment and conditions.

Particularly concerning issues raised in calls included the case of a child who had been deemed suitable for a transfer to hospital under the Mental Health Act but was still waiting for a bed and was made to appear before the governor for a disciplinary hearing.

Another child was not provided with their prescribed medication for several days and had been self-injuring.

The Howard League was also made aware of two children who were being held in their cells in isolation – one for up to 23-and-a-half hours a day – and not getting exercise or education.

Andrew Neilson, Director of Campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “Today’s report on Werrington is the latest in a long line of inspections and inquiries that have shown prisons holding children to be fundamentally unsafe and unable to meet their most basic needs.

“Calls from prisons across the country to the Howard League’s legal helpline demonstrate the unacceptable trauma that children are exposed to in custody, from lack of education to isolation and painful restraint. If a parent behaved in this way they would find themselves at risk of a child protection investigation or even prosecution, but, shamefully, prisons are held to a much lower standard.

“Later today, MPs will debate whether it is time to end the use of prison for children. This debate is long overdue, and the answer ought to be a resounding ‘yes’.”

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.
  1. MPs are due to take part in a Westminster Hall debate on ending child imprisonment on Tuesday 25 June at 2.30pm.
  1. A copy of the Werrington inspection report will be available from Tuesday 25 June on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website.


Rob Preece
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