THE Aylesbury Young Offender Institution in Buckinghamshire has been locking up hundreds of teenage prisoners in their cells in solitary confinement for over 23-hours a day for as long as three months at a stretch, it has emerged.
The Tory Ministry of Justice placed the prison in ‘special measures’ last week after the scandal finally broke following ‘numerous complaints’ by the Howard League for Penal Reform.
The prison holds 440 inmates, mostly aged between 18 and 21 and the practice of keeping them in solitary confinement raises ‘significant concerns for their mental and physical wellbeing’, said the independent monitors of the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, which has upheld complaints on behalf of three inmates who had been ‘segregated’, or locked in their cells in solitary.
The Howard League, received almost 200 calls to its confidential line for young people in custody from prisoners at Aylesbury over a 12-month period to 25 January – almost a third related to segregation.
Howard League legal director Laura Janes said it had been ‘inundated with calls from distressed young adults isolated in their cells (at Aylesbury) for over 23 hours a day, often for weeks and sometimes months at a time’.
The young men described ‘feeling bored, frustrated and sometimes even suicidal’, she said.
‘They often have no idea when their isolation will be brought to an end, adding to their sense of hopelessness.
‘We have had to make numerous complaints and safeguarding referrals to the prison, which appears to be in a perpetual state of crisis.
‘It is well known that locking energetic young men in their cells for excessive periods of time can cause irreversible harm.’
Last year, the British Medical Association, the Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said there is ‘an increased risk of suicide or self-harm amongst those placed in solitary confinement’.
- More than half of young people admitted to short-stay mental health units are being kept there for longer than the recommended maximum stay of six weeks, with some young people end up staying in the units for months, or more than a year.
The maximum recommended length of stay according to guidelines from the National Association of Psychiatric Intensive Care Units (PICU) is six weeks.
However, last year 29% of young people were stuck for three months or longer, 10% for six months or longer, and 11 children stayed on PICU wards for over a year.