Prisons could be unable to cope, report warned


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The Independent Online

Britain's prisons and young offenders' institutions do not have the policies in place to deal with the influx of young gang members who will be locked up in the coming months, according to a damning report given to ministers a year ago.

The joint study by the inspectors of prisons, probation and constabulary was presented to the Coalition Government in June last year.

But yesterday neither the Home Office nor the Ministry of Justice could say how many of the report's 12 recommendations had been acted upon. Government sources said it would now be looked at again "in detail" in the light of last week's rioting.

The report warns that gang culture in Britain has not been tackled in a joined-up way by government agencies and singled out the prison service for not taking the issue seriously enough.

It highlighted one young offenders' institution that refused to identify gang affiliation because it "didn't want to create a monster that doesn't exist" and criticised others for being aware of the problem but dealing with it solely as a security issue.

The findings will concern ministers because of fears that gang associations could be strengthened as a result of the significant number of prison sentences which will be handed down by the courts in the coming months.

"Responses from all three inspected services were patchy and at times counter-productive," the report concluded. "Prisons often had the least well-developed approach. One young offenders' institution refused to identify gang affiliation in the belief that it did not exist."

The report singled out the police for praise at tackling gang violence. But it said they tended to focus on the criminal aspect of gangs rather than on the underlying causes of them.

The report called for a specific strategy for tackling gang culture among under-18s to be drawn up. This should include a dedicated co-ordinator in every prison and young offenders' institute to deal with gang-related issues.

Yesterday, the Home Office said that it had already announced more than £18m of funding to tackle the problems of knife, gun and gang crime in the UK.