Bleak warning for detention centre

THE FUTURE of a young offenders' institution where four inmates have committed suicide in seven months is 'bleak' unless moves to improve its regime succeed, the Chief Inspector of Prisons, Judge Stephen Tumim, says today.

Some achievements had been made at Feltham in west London, but the basic lifestyle of the more than 500 remand and 242 sentenced inmates remained 'unsatisfactory'.

Judge Tumim's report says that a short, unannounced inspection in August found relations between staff and inmates had improved but standards of accommodation had deteriorated considerably. Cells were badly in need of redecoration, graffiti was commonplace, furniture was damaged and lavatories were filthy and foul-smelling.

The judge says that the shortage of training - 32 places for nearly 800 inmates - is 'lamentable'. Since the four suicides between August 1991 and March 1992, Feltham had tried to deal with bullying by installing closed-circuit television and establishing a special unit holding up to 16 inmates suspected of bullying. Behaviour was governed by points, with marks deducted for rule-breaking, but it was applied inconsistently. Managers appeared to have 'abdicated responsibility' for the control of inmates by failing to manage the system.

Staff were unable to provide data on bullying or reports of self-harm. 'Since there were six psychologists employed at Feltham, it was hard to understand the absence of systematic evaluation to gauge the effectiveness of initiatives,' he adds.

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