Exclusive: Children stripped naked and kept in dark cells


Children displaying disruptive behaviour in Stoke Heath
Young Offenders’ Institution in Shropshire are being stripped
naked and placed in small cells with no light, furniture or toilet
for days at a time, Community Care has learned, writes
Clare Jerrom.

Martin Narey, the commissioner for correctional services,
confirmed in a letter to the Howard League for Penal Reform last
October when he was director general of the Prison Service that
these special cells existed and that, on one occasion, a child had
been held in one for five days.

This week, more than a year after the charity contacted Narey to
express their concern about the cells, the Home Office admitted to
Community Care’that they were still in use and had been
occupied by juveniles “three times in the past three

A spokesperson for the Home Office said that the two cells at
Stoke Heath, located within the segregation unit, were designed for
offenders displaying “extreme violence towards others”
and were used until the aggression became “manageable”.
She added that they were “as certain as we can be” that
such cells were not being used for juveniles in other prisons. 

Although the Home Office said children were kept in the cells
for “typically a few hours”, the League said they had
reason to believe children were being kept there for “several
days at a time”. They recently received allegations of a young
person being held in one for five days earlier this year.

The League also warned that those children most difficult to
control were “likely to have mental health problems”.
They were first alerted to the cells’ existence last autumn
by someone concerned about a young man being held there who was
self-harming and showing signs of mental distress.

“Placing children in these cells can only exacerbate
mental health problems and damage these young people
further,” warned Fran Russell, assistant director of the
charity. The charity believes the cells are unlawful under the
human rights act and have called for their abolition.

Although more than half of young offenders have had previous
involvement with social services and many have been sexually
abused, Narey admitted last October that clothing would be removed
if it threatened a child’s safety – an experience
Russell said was likely to “traumatise” children who
had been abused.

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