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A children’s prison has been criticised by inspectors after they found new arrivals as young as 15 were being locked in solitary confinement in their rooms for a fortnight and allowed out for just 30 minutes a day because of concerns about coronavirus.
Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre, near Rugby in Warwickshire, which provides accommodation for up to 87 children aged between 12 and 17 who are on remand or serving custodial sentences, was the subject of a monitoring visit in October following an earlier, critical inspection.
Inspectors were told that from the start of the first lockdown, newly admitted children were locked up on arrival for 14 days, in line with national Covid guidance on self-isolation.
The inspection report ruled there was “no rationale” for keeping children in solitary confinement for 23 and a half hours per day and called for the practice to stop immediately.
“Records from these 14-day periods show that there is no meaningful interaction with children,” the report stated. “This is an excessive amount of time for children to be locked in, is tantamount to solitary confinement, and is highly likely to be damaging to their emotional and physical wellbeing.”
Frances Crook, the chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, called for Rainsbrook to be shut down. “They are using Covid as an excuse for locking them up. The idea that a child would come from a court hearing – having had a traumatic experience – and you are put in a cell by yourself for almost 24 hours a day, for 14 days, without seeing anybody and with nothing to do … It’s child abuse.”
Almost one in four children (23%) told inspectors they did not feel safe, and the report flagged up a failure of leadership to consistently ensure children’s safety and wellbeing at Rainsbrook.
The report also revealed a rise in emotional abuse towards children during the pandemic, with increased incidents of staff swearing at children or “taking banter too far”. Some children said they did not feel that all senior staff were willing to listen to them or take their concerns seriously.
Inspectors noted, however, that relationships between children and custodial care officers appeared positive, and children said they felt the officers knew them and understood their needs.
The inspection was carried out by Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission and the prison’s inspectorate. Immediately after, Ofsted’s chief inspector, Amanda Spielman, wrote on behalf of all three to the justice secretary, Robert Buckland, to highlight concerns, followed by an emergency meeting with the Ministry of Justice.
“We will be carrying out a joint monitoring visit to Rainsbrook within eight weeks to make sure that the necessary improvements have been made to keep children safe,” an Ofsted spokesperson said.
Th chief inspector of prisons, Charlie Taylor, said it was “extremely concerning that this was allowed to happen by Rainsbrook and the Youth Custody Service (YCS)”.
Rainsbrook, which was responsible for 43 children at the time of the visit, is run by a private provider, MTCnovo. Both MTCnovo and the Ministry of Justice have been contacted for comment.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Inspectors condemn youth prison that kept new inmates in solitary for two weeks | Children