Governor defends jail after survey claim

A PRISON governor yesterday defended his officers after a survey revealed young inmates felt unsafe and some of them claimed to have been assaulted by staff.

A PRISON governor yesterday defended his officers after a survey revealed young inmates felt unsafe and some of them claimed to have been assaulted by staff.

Half of the teenage criminals held in the top security Carlford unit at Hollesley, near Woodbridge, claimed they felt unsafe - the highest proportion compared with all young male offender institutions.

The unit also scored badly when the children were asked if they had been ''hit, kicked or assaulted'' by any member of staff, with three boys saying this had happened occasionally.

They said there had been play fighting with the officers and they had been punched in the chest. Five youngsters claimed they had been attacked by other inmates.


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The survey was undertaken in October 2002 and the results have now been released in a report by the Inspectorate of Prisons and the Youth Justice Board.

The survey obtained the opinions of 861 youths nationally aged 15 to 18 and painted a grim picture of Britain's juvenile prisons.

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Carlford, part of the Warren Hill closed prison, houses a maximum of 30 teenagers.

It is a specialist unit holding youngsters who are serving long-term detention and can include sex offenders and young people whose crimes were so serious they would receive a life sentence if they were an adult.

But Stuart Robinson, the governor, said the survey gave a ''misleading'' snapshot of life in Carlford and he said it was a well-run unit where officers showed proper respect to the young people.

Mr Robinson said: ''Reports of any sort of physical incidents are extremely low. I do about one adjudication a fortnight for anything. They are not just breaches of rules but they are occasional fights, but that is as far as it goes.''

He said attacks by staff did not happen and the definition of an assault could include a non-physical action.

''Whereas in most environments staff do not in any physical sense touch trainees (inmates), in that community environment there is a bit more physical contact in terms of back slapping, or sort of facing up, the sort of thing dads do with kids, and that is the nearest it would get,'' he said.

He said just before the children had been questioned in the survey there had been problems with one ringleader recruiting two children and then starting fights with other inmates.

''He had been advised by his own parent that was the way he should go about in prison. That was cleared up but was in the recent memory of the kids there and several of them would have been victims of that,'' said Mr Robinson.

He added: ''If you refer to the most recent report by the inspectorate, and they come every year to the Carlford unit, you will see they uphold the relationships are extremely good.

''The survey is a snapshot and you are talking about very low numbers as well so two people in the survey equals 10%. But if we look at the whole of the report Carlford is held above average in most respects.''

Nearly all the inmates disliked the food, but they did have access to a daily shower, a personal officer, a training plan and education.

Staff at Carlford have received the Butler Trust Terry Waite award for their work with the inmates.

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