Prisoners in a young offenders jail are charging other inmates “rent” for cells and threatening violence if it is not paid, inspectors have revealed.
A spike in assaults against prisoners and staff and direct links between bullying and levels of self-harm were also among findings in a highly critical report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) into Young Offender Institution (YOI) Glen Parva, in Leicestershire.
Two young men killed themselves in 2013 at the prison, which at the time of the unannounced inspection held 659 inmates aged between 18 and 21, while there had been two serious near misses in 2014. In addition, two months following the inspection, another young man committed suicide.
Glen Parva, built in the early 1970s as a borstal, has been deemed “not safe” by the inspectorate, which has called for urgent progress with reviews into arrangements for holding young adults.
Inspectors believe many inmates misbehave to get themselves placed in segregation units where they would be away from the wings and feel safer.
The damning report comes less than a week after a raft of bleak figures published by the Ministry of Justice revealed a leap in the number of on-the-run inmates in the last year, as well as an increase in deaths in custody and a rise in the number of jails considered to be ”of concern”.
Frances Crook, chief executive of campaigners Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “This prison is dangerous for teenagers and this sounds more like an extract from William Golding’s Lord Of The Flies than a report on an institution that is meant to help young people turn their lives around.
“Yet another report of violence and idleness inflicted on teenagers by the state shows that the use of short prison sentences and remand is at the core of the problem.”
In a 92-page report, inspectors said they had uncovered evidence of prisoners “charging ‘rent’ for cells with the threat of violence if this was not paid”, while the YOI was not on top of the availability of legal highs such as ‘Spice’ and ‘Black Mamba’.
Assaults on prisoners had risen from 121 in 2012 to 157 in 2013 and on staff had increased from 35 to 43 in the same period, HMIP said, while d ata for the first quarter of 2014 showed a further increase
Inspectors found the number of serious incidents such as barricades, hostage taking and “incidents at height”, such as rooftop protests, had also increased.
Elsewhere, HMIP found that paperwork for prisoners at risk of suicide or self-harm had increased by 32% since 2012 and was high.
The prison identified that in December 2013, 29% of the self-harm threats or incidents had been as a direct result of being bullied, while this had reduced it was still classed as a “cause for concern” by the inspectors.
The report said: ” Unless the young men held at Glen Parva were safe, very little else would be achieved, but Glen Parva was not safe.”
Chief inspector of prisons Nick Hardwick added: ” Glen Parva is a concerning institution.
“Local management can do much to improve things. There was some reassurance that many of the problems at Glen Parva had been identified and there were plans in place to address them, which they had begun to implement before the inspection started. It is much too early to assess these changes.
“However, some of the challenges Glen Parva faces are outside its direct control and the planned review of arrangements for holding young adults, and the current independent inquiry into recent self-inflicted deaths among this age group, need to proceed urgently.”
Inspectors also found evidence of unofficial punishments being given, including restrictions to exercise periods, as well as some officers using “offensive language”.
Use of force was deemed too high with 379 incidents in the six months to the end of March, including the use of control and restraint techniques in almost two-thirds of incidents.
Michael Spurr, chief executive of the National Offender Management Service (Noms), the executive agency of the Ministry of Justice that runs prisons in England and Wales, said: ” The challenges presented by the young men held at Glen Parva should not be underestimated and on occasions the prison has struggled to cope.
“The governor launched an improvement plan prior to this unannounced inspection and progress is being made.
“Safety is the governor’s top priority and the YOI is now providing a safe and decent regime. We are reviewing future arrangements for young adult offenders in light of the wider concerns raised by the inspectorate.”