Fury at prison training course axe

EXCLUSIVEBy Richard SmithSTAFF teaching young prisoners vital skills to find work are losing their jobs while thousands of pounds are spent on luxury leisure items, it has been revealed.

EXCLUSIVE

By Richard Smith

STAFF teaching young prisoners vital skills to find work are losing their jobs while thousands of pounds are spent on luxury leisure items, it has been revealed.

The Foundation Training Company is closing on May 28 at Warren Hill closed prison near Woodbridge, which takes young offenders aged from 15 to 18.

Three staff are being made redundant - and an anger management course for the inmates is also finishing.

The East Anglian Daily Times revealed on Saturday that inmates at Warren Hill can enjoy wide-ranging leisure activities, including land yachting, fishing, Scalectrix, petrol-driven remote controlled cars, PlayStation2 sets, a Duke of Edinburgh award scheme on a barge and indoor climbing.

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Their cells, already fitted with televisions, are going to have kettles and the inmates could be given Nike trainers to wear.

A bongo drumming course and recording equipment for the youngsters to help them to “express themselves” are also available - but they are losing staff who can help them find work and keep them off the streets when they leave the prison.

The decision to close the company and save £130,000 a year, when the prison is also spending more than £500,000 on four portable buildings, has infuriated staff.

The company has a classroom and office at Warren Hill where 24 teenagers a day are taught.

They are given a seven-week course for five days a week to help them write CVs, learn how to handle an interview, obtain work and budget their money. One prison officer said: “There are so many of them who have said they love the Foundation Training Company (FTC). Closing it will be such a loss and they will go back to being banged up all day.

“It has gone absolutely crazy here. All this money is being spent on leisure and yet the FTC is closing. I think there is a timebomb waiting to go off.

“The boys think it is a joke and they even call it 'Holiday Bay' themselves. They say the only thing prison is doing for them is to take them away from their families.”

John Gummer, the MP for Suffolk Coastal, said one of the prison's most important roles was to help the teenagers find jobs and keep them out of trouble.

He added many of them could not read and write before they were imprisoned and the training company had done a good job with them.

“It is utterly wrong to reduce the educational and training support. What I would hope to have heard was an increase in spending. I think that is absolutely crucial,” said Mr Gummer.

“Many of these young people have really nothing in their lives at all and the priority is to give them something that will enable them to earn a living.

“We must be assured that the governor has the facilities, the people and the support that he needs to do this job.”

A Prison Service spokeswoman said the Youth Justice Board had made the decision to stop funding the company at Warren Hill, but it would still operate at Hollesley Bay open prison.

But the prison officer said the FTC was told to close for two weeks over Easter, when it is normally open, while the teenagers enjoyed family barbecues and entertainment.

“It just seems as though it is all about the boys enjoying themselves now and not preparing them for the outside world. If they are not given training, they will go out and rob an old lady,” he added.

“The loss of the anger management course is also bad news. There are a lot of angry young men in there.”

The FTC courses started in Warren Hill in September 1999 and the prison was one of the first in the country to take a proactive approach with the youngsters as they prepared for a return to the community.

richard.smith@eadt.co.uk

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