THE DISGRACEFUL conditions imposed on ‘youth offenders’ have been revealed by another report from Peter Clarke the chief inspector of prisons in England and Wales.
A boy at Feltham A Young Offenders Institution (YOI) was left to lie on a mattress on the floor of a ‘filthy’ cell for more than 22 hours a day, his report has revealed.
Clarke went further to state that a practice of separating children from their peers at YOIs amounted to ‘harmful solitary confinement’ that had fundamental flaws and was a risk to mental health.
Inspectors looked at five YOIs, holding about 600 men and boys aged 15 to 18 – Cookham Wood in Kent; Feltham A in west London; Parc in south Wales; Werrington in Staffordshire, and Wetherby and Keppel in West Yorkshire.
Clarke found that 57 offenders had been separated in solitary confinement, and ‘in the worst cases children left their cells for just 15 minutes a day.’
Sheena Evelyn says her son, Kyefer, spent ‘most of his time’ in solitary confinement when he was in a young offenders institution. She condemned the practice as ‘cruel and inhumane’ that destroyed her son’s mental health.
She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Tuesday: ‘In a short space of time he was hearing voices, he was suicidal … It’s normal common sense, it doesn’t take a doctor to tell you that a child needs basic rights like sunlight and interaction with their peers.’
She continued that solitary confinement was an ‘abuse of power’.
Asked why her son was put into solitary confinement, she says ‘there doesn’t have to be a reason’, adding that it is just ‘an abuse of power’.
She continued: ‘Young offenders institutions are very violent places. There’s a lot of testosterone, they’re locked behind the doors for 23-and-a-half hours a day. You have to fight to survive in these places.’
In fact, Inspector Clarke found that eight children had spent a combined total of 373 days in separation while waiting to be taken to a secure hospital for treatment for mental health conditions.
He found that those separated spent long periods in cells ‘without any meaningful human interaction’.
Clarke told the Today programme that the system was ‘badly broken’, adding that: ‘These failings are so consistent and have been taking place for such a long time, I’ve taken the rather unusual step of putting one overarching recommendation into our report, which is that the Secretary of State for Justice should take personal charge of this and actually insist that something is now done to put this right.
‘We don’t deny for a moment there are occasions when children do need to be separated but if they do need to be separated – and that’s very often for their own or somebody else’s safety or for other good reason – then it should be done in a way which allows them to have the basic entitlements, and that hasn’t been happening.’
Last August, the then-Justice Secretary Robert Buckland announced a series of pledges to improve standards at Feltham A YOI. This was after prison inspectors found there had been a ‘dramatic decline’ in safety levels despite the number of inmates falling from 148 to 108.
In six months, there was a 45% rise in violent incidents, while levels of self-harm had tripled and the number of assaults against staff surged by about 150%, according to the report.
Some 74% of children said they had been physically restrained at Feltham A, while 40% claimed they had felt unsafe at some point during their stay.
The latest report shows that nothing has changed since then. In fact in capitalist society, youth are treated as a slave labour force to produce massive profits for the employers. When they rebel, they are brutalised in YOIs.
Only the Young Socialists, the youth movement of the WRP, is mobilising the mass of youth to reject cheap Labour exploitation and brutalisation under capitalism.
The way forward is for youth to build a mass Young Socialists movement to lead the fight, alongside the WRP, to smash capitalism with a socialist revolution. This will put an end to super-exploitation and brutalisation under capitalism forever.