A notorious young offenders institution has been compared to Lord of the Flies after an official report linked hundreds of incidents of self-harm and several suicides to high levels of bullying and violence.
Prisoners at Glen Parva YOI in Leicestershire, one of the biggest such institutions in the country, felt so unsafe that many deliberately committed offences to ensure they were placed in segregation units, according to chief inspector of prisons Nick Hardwick.
Inspectors also found “evidence of prisoners charging ‘rent’ for cells with the threat of violence if this was not paid,” according to his report published today.
Some staff were “too willing to accept violence as an inevitable part of life at Glen Parva,” Mr Hardwick said. Assaults on prisoners and staff at the YOI, which holds more than 650 18-21-year-olds, have risen by a quarter in a year. The number of incidents of self-farm rose from 274 to 316.
Three men have committed suicide in Glen Parva since 2013, with “two serious near misses in 2014” says the report. Inspectors found a “direct link” between high levels of self-harm and high levels of bullying in the prison.
Mr Hardwick branded Glen Parva “a concerning institution” where outcomes for inmates “were unacceptable in too many areas”. He warned that there was growing evidence that such large detention units were inappropriate for young people.
“This is one of a sequence of reports (Aylesbury, Brinsford, Feltham and Isis) which my inspectorate has produced that reveal serious concerns relating to young offender institutions (YOI) of this type,” he said.
The findings of the inspection, which took place earlier this year, have prompted campaigners to liken Glen Parva to Lord of the Flies – a novel in which children turn feral and end up committing murder.
Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “This prison is dangerous for teenagers and this sounds more like an extract from William Golding’s Lord of the Flies than a report on an institution that is meant to help young people turn their lives around.” She challenged the government to “take these young people out of such a toxic environment before more of them die, or take responsibility for the consequences.”
One mother, who would not be named, wrote to Mr Hardwick last week in a bid to get her son moved from Glen Parva. She describes how, during an earlier spell there, her son suffered “three separate assaults by three different inmates” and “has had to move units at least five times due to acts of violence against him or bullying”.
Last week Ministry of Justice figures revealed that UK adult prisons have been hit by a tide of violence, with soaring levels of attacks, suicides and self-harm among offenders crammed into cells.
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