Damning verdict on first private child jail

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BRITAIN'S FIRST privately run children's jail is badly designed, poorly managed and employs staff with inadequate experience, according to a scathing report by government inspectors to be published today.

The Home Office minister Paul Boateng will use the report to issue a stinging rebuke to Rebound, the Group 4 subsidiary that runs the jail.

The Medway Secure Training Centre in Kent has had a troubled history since it opened last April to cater for persistent offenders aged 12 to 14.

The centre was the scene of rioting in June and three months later it was visited by a team from the Department of Health's Social Security Inspectorate, who were said to be deeply concerned.

Some of the weapons used by the young rioters were pieces of metal and plaster that had been easily prized from the building.

The report is understood to criticise the jail's management for the high turnover of staff, 30 of whom have left since the centre opened.

It is also expected to highlight the failure of the centre to ensure that the child inmates were given the agreed amount of education and physical activity.

Rebound, which has already been shown the report, is understood to have protested to the Government that the children placed in its care were more disruptive and from more damaged backgrounds than they had been led to expect.

A government official said: "Rebound should apologise for the mistakes they have made. They skimped on the staff and they skimped on the building materials."

But the jail's management are believed to have told inspectors that Medway was designed exactly to agreed specifications, which would have been sufficient had many of the children not continued to repeat long-held habits of absconding and violence.