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8 Aug 2016

Serious and widespread failings at Medway secure training centre

The Howard League for Penal Reform has today (Monday 8 August) responded to a joint inspection report on Medway secure training centre in Kent.

Inspectors from Ofsted, HM Inspectorate of Prisons and the Care Quality Commission visited Medway in June, shortly before the National Offender Management Service took over the running of the jail from G4S.

They found “serious and widespread failings”. Behaviour management across the centre had deteriorated significantly since the previous inspection. Rewards and sanctions were implemented inconsistently; levels of violence were high, particularly against staff; and oversight of the use of force and restraint was poor.

Inspectors also found evidence that violence against children and staff was underreported. Staff were unable to provide inspectors with accurate records of the number of children requiring medical treatment as a result of assaults or fights.

Use of force and restraint were increasing and the number of such incidents in the month before the inspection was higher than at any point in the previous 12 months.

Security arrangements were a “significant concern”. A games console was brought into the jail by a staff member for a child, whose procedures were breached leading to serious misuse. Two USB data sticks containing “highly inappropriate material” were found in areas accessed by children. Inspectors said it was clear that children had been able to access pornography.

Inspectors found that child protection matters were not managed effectively, meaning children were not sufficiently safeguarded.

The report comes seven months after a BBC Panorama documentary made allegations of child abuse at Medway. A police investigation is ongoing.

Andrew Neilson, Director of Campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “This damning report underscores why it is welcome G4S are no longer running Medway secure training centre.

“Children in Medway are not safe and, given the allegations that were made in the Panorama documentary in January, it is shocking to see that violence is underreported and medical treatment is being inadequately recorded. This cannot go on.

“It is not simply the secure training centres which have proved failed models of child custody. In both young offender institutions and secure training centres we see problems of violence and cultures far removed from the caring environments children need. Radical action is required.”

The Howard League legal team has dealt with numerous concerns raised by or on behalf of young people at Medway over the years. The team has also worked with adults who were detained there as children and who have raised serious concerns about their treatment.

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. Today’s inspection report on Medway secure training centre can be viewed online.
  1. The Carlile Inquiry 10 years on, a landmark report on the use of restraint, solitary confinement and strip-searching, was published by the Howard League in June.


Rob Preece
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