Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Rainsbrook Scandal Requires a Woolf Report on Under 18’s

Today’s inspection report about Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre is a shocker. It has always been the best of the STC’s. Notwithstanding the tragic death of Gareth Myatt in 2004, Inspection reports have generally been positive. Something must have gone very wrong in the last year or two.

What OFSTED and the Prison Inspectors found looks significantly worse than inadequate, the lowest rating on the scale. They report on serious incidents of gross misconduct by staff, (including managers), and degrading treatment of young people. One young person did not receive treatment for a fracture for approximately 15 hours. We are spared details of other “very serious” incidents to protect the confidentiality of the young people concerned.

The way G4S who run the Centre have responded to the criticisms does not augur well. They tweeted that these were isolated incidents and not reflective of a very professional and committed team. This looks a highly complacent response to serious concerns about “the volume of very poor staff behaviour warranting disciplinary measures”. It also ignores the findings of management dysfunction. . Health and operational staff were at odds on procedures for physical restraint – a potentially life threatening matter which must be urgently resolved.  Inspectors also found that clear clinical advice was overruled by non-health qualified senior managers, possible presumably because the health care (along with education) is provided by G4S themselves.

Contracts for the future running of STC’s are in the process of being re-tendered and the chances of continuing G4S involvement has presumably taken a knock. Perhaps the report could prompt new Justice Secretary Michael Gove to halt the process and have a look at the bigger picture.  He could ask, or preferably appoint an independent figure to ask, some searching questions about the kind of secure provision we really need; a Woolf Inquiry for the under 18’s .

Controversial Secure Colleges are waiting in the wings but if the Treasury can be persuaded to stump up the money, there will then be four different types of detention for about 1000 young people. Maybe that’s the system we need. But no one has ever really asked the question.

When the STC’s were first proposed in 1993,  Labour’s Home Affair spokesman , Tony Blair thought them fundamentally wrong because ‘the last thing you want to do with those persistent young offenders is to put them alongside 40 or 50 other persistent young offenders and lock them up for a considerable period of time’.  Moreover it was  ‘insane to set up these new centres at the same time as the local authorities are having to close some of their facilities for disturbed young people in communities throughout the country’. Blair’s government was to continue the insanity. Gove has a chance to end it.

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