Prison conditions deteriorate in wake of riots


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The Independent Online

Conditions inside young offender institutions are deteriorating in the wake of the riots as the prison population reach a new high and courts continued to remand high numbers of young people behind bars.

Relatives and solicitors acting on behalf of teenagers inside juvenile prisons have told of worsening conditions, with attacks on suspected rioters, over-crowding in cells and long periods of detention designed to separate riot prisoners from other inmates.

One mother, whose teenage son is serving a sentence at Isis prison in Thamesmead, described how he was assaulted by inmates who thought he was a rioter. "They thumped him right in the face," she said. "He's not one of the rioters. But because he arrived on the same day as some of the rioters those inside attacked him."

The mother, who asked to remain anonymous to protect her son's identity, said cells built to accommodate two were having mattresses placed on the floor for new arrivals to sleep on.

Paul Matthews, a lawyer for GT Stewart who represents a 15-year-old suspected rioter at Feltham Young Offenders, said prison authorities were keeping looters apart from other prisoners.

"Those suspected of rioting are being held separate from the rest of the population for their own safety," he said. "I asked my client what he did all day and he told that they are almost always in lock up. There seems to be no structure, no education or training. We're creating criminals of the future."

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Justice denied that suspected rioters were being held separately at Feltham or that there was a lack of space at Isis.

Figures released by the Ministry of Justice showed there are currently 86,821 behind bars, a 167 increase on last week's record figure of 86,654.