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13 Jun 2017

Howard League responds to inspection of Medway secure training centre

The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to a joint inspection report on Medway secure training centre in Kent, published today (Tuesday 13 June).

The report – produced jointly by Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons – concludes that Medway, which holds children as young as 13, is unsafe.

Medway became notorious in January 2016, when a BBC Panorama documentary made allegations of child abuse at the jail. Criminal proceedings in relation to this investigation are ongoing.

The National Offender Management Service (since replaced by Her Majesty’s Prisons and Probation Service) took over the running of the jail from G4S last summer.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “Almost 18 months have passed since the BBC’s shocking Panorama documentary, and yet today we read another awful report on Medway, which is clearly unfit to look after children.

“The Howard League opposed the creation of secure training centres in the 1990s and warned that children would be damaged and hurt in these institutions. For many years independent inspectors’ findings have underlined that this is a failed model of detention. After 30 years of children being mistreated and their life chances damaged, it is time to put an end to this.

“The G4S years were disastrous. Unfortunately, running Medway in the public sector does not appear to have made much difference.  Children are still being placed in this jail, despite there being empty beds in the well-run local authority units.

“I shall be visiting the jail later this week to find out for myself.”

Inspectors visited the jail in March and found it to be unsafe. Security arrangements remained inadequate. Child protection records were incomplete. Areas of the jail where children reported feeling unsafe, such as stairwells and the education block, were not covered by CCTV. There were problems with how the jail, police and the local council worked together on safeguarding.

Violence and use of force had risen, but violent incidents were not recorded accurately. Inspectors found that no records had been kept at the jail for several months from July 2016, although the Youth Justice Board was still receiving data at the time. Body-worn cameras had been issued to all staff, but they were not always switched on when they should have been.

There had been five ‘serious injuries or warning signs’ identified during restraints, all of which involved children saying that they could not breathe.

Inspectors report that “upskilling the workforce, the vast majority of which were G4S employees, is a significant challenge”. The jail is struggling to recruit staff, and generic job adverts have been used, advertising positions for prison officers, not specifically for secure care officers for those aged under 18.

The governor told inspectors that employment history and past performance information relating to staff who were employed by G4S was not available to him. Inspectors describe this as a “serious shortfall” as it means that staff who may have experienced disciplinary or capability measures no longer have this information on their employment records.

Most staff and managers at Medway have little understanding of risks to young people, such as child sexual exploitation and radicalisation.

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. A copy of the Medway secure training centre inspection report can be found online.


Rob Preece
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