Young held in 'appalling' cells

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The Independent Online
Conditions for young offenders are so bad at one jail that they may be breaking the UN minimum standards for children, according to the Chief Inspector of Prisons. Sir David Ramsbotham also attacked the general treatment of young offenders, describing them as "appalling and 19th-century".

His comments, in a report published today, follow an inspection of Chelmsford jail, Essex, which houses a mixture of unconvicted and convicted young offenders aged 17 to 21 as well as adults. There are about 100 young offenders and more than 300 adults.

He says: "Overall the treatment of young offenders was extremely poor. They had been abandoned in adult wings with no thought for their welfare or needs. Their survival was unpleasant to observe. Elementary care for young men at risk was not even properly considered. For them to await court hearings or start a sentence in these conditions was nothing short of negligence. The appalling and 19th-century attitude to the treatment of young offenders accentuates, yet again, the urgent need for the Prison Service to address their conditions more effectively, by appointing a Director of Young Offenders."

He said some cells where new inmates are first kept were "some of the worst we have seen. They were bare and the walls were covered in highly sexist and racist graffiti: it would be difficult to imagine a less constructive introduction to prison life. I have to question whether the conditions in which they [young offenders] are being held satisfies the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child."

The report also criticises the Prison Service for allowing sex offenders to keep pornography, including photos of children, on their walls.

Richard Tilt, director-general of the Prison Service, said: "The Inspectorate has identified a number of areas of concern, which I know both the Governor and the Area Manager are determined to address."

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