Increase in use of force at privately run young offender institution

originally by: The Guardian
published: 17th February 2012

A huge increase in the use of force to restrain teenage boys at a privately run young offender institution has been sharply criticised by the chief inspector of prisons. Nick Hardwick says the nine-fold rise in the use of force in the past year at the Serco-run Ashfield young offender institution from an average of 17 times a month to 150 times a month is “extremely high”.

The chief inspector has warned the private prison managers at Ashfield, near Bristol, that force must only be used as a last resort where there is an immediate risk to life or limb and not simply to obtain compliance with staff instructions.

But when the prison inspectors went into Ashfield last October they found that more than 40% of the teenage inmates had been restrained and the most frequent reason given in five out of the six preceding months was “failure to obey staff instructions”.

Penal reformers said the disclosure has “chilling echoes” of the death of 15-year-old Gareth Myatt, who died while being restrained at a Northamptonshire young offender institution in 2004.

The inspection report on Ashfield published on Friday also says there are serious problems with the late delivery of offenders from court despite a new private escort company, GeoAmey, with inmates delivered from court to Ashfield on one recent occasion between 11pm and 3am.

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