Sunday, September 27, 2020

Cookham Wood Young offenders institution in Kent, inspectors found that children were allowed out of their cells only 40 minutes a day.


Cookham Wood Young offenders institution in Kent, 
inspectors found that children were allowed out of their cells 
only 40 minutes a day.

I worked in the STC (Secure Training Centre) next door to this YP some years ago.
I wasTraining Staff on a sessional basis.
Back in the 60’s I was a residential Housefather in a Young Offenders Unit of 15 boys.
My innards hurt when I read about the above.

My Friend Simon responds to this report::
"I used to work in a Young Offenders Institute and as much as sometimes young people have to be locked up for public protection reasons, it's also evident that the vast majority of them have had extremely troubled childhoods. They have suffered much emotional damage along the journey and this is absolutely no way to help them change and grow positively for the future. A mental health time bomb if there isn't one already. Truly appalling."

The 2019 report included these comments/conclusions ::
This report details findings from our latest inspection of HMYOI Cookham Wood, a facility holding up to 188 boys aged between 15 and 18. In common with all young offender institutions (YOIs), and recognising the risks and accountabilities relating to the imprisonment of children, Cookham Wood is subject to independent inspection annually.

When we inspected last year, we reported outcomes for children that were insufficient in three of our healthy prison tests and reasonably good in only one, ‘care’. At this inspection, the situation had deteriorated to the extent that outcomes were now insufficiently good against all our healthy prison tests. Despite these disappointing verdicts, local managers sought to provide some context in terms of their frustration at being unable to recruit and retain sufficient staff. New recruitment initiatives were underway and there was some hope that the impending closure of the adjacent Medway Secure Training Centre (STC) would lead to an influx of transferred staff in the new year. Staff shortages, however, could not have come at a worse time as the institution was running near capacity as children were diverted away from Feltham A YOI, as that institution responded to the Urgent Notification we issued to it earlier in the year.

Cookham Wood was still not safe enough. Children were received into the institution reasonably well but induction arrangements were undermined by extended periods of inactivity and lock-up. Safeguarding procedures were sound and levels of self-harm were lower than at comparable prisons, with those in crisis telling us they felt supported. Levels of violence, however, some of which was serious, remained high. Work was in place to resolve conflict, supported by a comprehensive behaviour management strategy, but much of this was impeded by the shortage or regular re- deployment of staff. In addition, too much low-level poor behaviour went unchallenged and too little was done to encourage fuller engagement among children. Safety was further undermined by overreliance on reactive ‘keep apart’ lists, which hindered a full and smoothly-run regime, and by significant amounts of lock-up.

Use of force had increased and was high, and more than half of incidents required the full deployment of restraint techniques. Children could also find themselves segregated on at least two units, Bridge and Phoenix, or on normal location. The purpose of these units required clarification and the regime for children on them was too limited, despite the attention of caring and supportive staff. The accommodation on Phoenix was poor.

Relationships between staff and children generally were not good enough. Barely two-thirds of children felt respected and staff rarely had sufficient time to meaningfully engage with them. Relationships were better on the Cedar unit. Accommodation was modern but its upkeep poor: the environment was often grubby and standards of cleanliness and general maintenance required improvement. The quality of food was reasonable but most children were required to eat their meals in their cells. Consultation arrangements needed more support and children experienced limited access to application and complaints procedures. The promotion of equality was poor, but the quality of health provision remained good.

We found 28% of children locked in cell during the school day, with most accessing just five hours a day out of cell during the week and two hours at weekends. Access to the gym and library was restricted. Despite some improvements to provision, punctuality and attendance at education and vocational training were poor, which limited education hours and contributed to the fact that only half those engaged on courses completed them. Overall, our colleagues in Ofsted judged the learning and skills provision as ‘requires improvement’, their second lowest assessment.


These children deserve and need the most attentive and loving care at their most needy time of life.
We need a light to shine in these dark corners.