Prisons: Use of necklocks on child prisoners broke the rules

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The Independent Online
NECK AND WRIST holds were used by staff on children at Britain's first jail for young offenders in a flagrant breach of the prison's rules, according to a damning official report released yesterday.

An inspection team from the Department of Health's Social Services Inspectorate found that the privately run Medway Secure Training Centre, which caters for 40 children aged from 12 to 14, was in a state of "crisis". The Home Office minister Paul Boateng made a scathing attack on Rebound, the Group 4 subsidiary that runs the jail. "My officials and I will not tolerate further failures. Rebound are in no doubt about this and recognise the serious failures of the past are quite unacceptable."

But none of the staff at Medway is to be disciplined and Mr Boateng said the Government is to press ahead with plans to open more centres for offenders aged 12 to 14.

The inspectors reported that Rebound had recruited a 12-strong team - known as the "Restraint Squad" - to keep order after a series of resignations caused a serious staff shortage. They noted: "We observed instances when wrist and necklocks were used...These methods have been criticised by the medical profession as being potentially injurious... They were also in contravention of the [centre's] rules."

It was confirmed yesterday that there were 150 "restraints" in six months. Nine of the restraints led to complaints being referred to the child protection team at Medway social services department, though there were no prosecutions.

Nevertheless, the inspectors said: "The over-reliance on the use of restraint and single separation as primary means of control and the fact that trainees felt aggrieved and powerless confirmed them in a `victim' role. This perception enabled them to justify their destructive behaviour."

Staff had been the victims of 97 assaults, of which 26 needed medical treatment.

Frances Crook, director of the Howard League, said yesterday: "Locking children up in a prison has been shown to make them more aggressive and to entrench offending behaviour. Medway has been seen to be a failure. It fails children, the public and the taxpayer."

Rebound said it had put in place an action plan that was either implementing or had already implemented changes recommended by the inspectors. These include changes in training and education, as well as a redesign of the building.