Special cells designed to hold disruptive young offenders exist
in 13 juvenile prison establishments, despite assurances from the
Home Office last month that they are only evident in Stoke Heath
Young Offenders Institution in Shropshire, writes Clare
In December, a Home Office spokesperson told ‘Community Care’
that the department was “as certain as we can be” that
special cells were not being used by juveniles in other
Yet in answer to a written parliamentary question last week,
prisons minister Paul Goggins admitted that juveniles had been held
in the cells in the 13 different establishments on more than 150
separate occasions during 2003.
The special cell in Huntercombe YOI alone was used 46 times, the
The cells in Stoke Heath have no furniture or sanitation and are
used to calm-down disruptive or violent offenders. Martin Narey,
the chief executive of the new National Offender Management
Service, admitted in a letter to the Howard League for Penal Reform
when he was director general of the Prison Service that children in
these cells would be stripped of their clothes if its retention
“would pose a threat”.
But current director general Phil Wheatley insisted children are
not naked in the cells. The Howard League believes children are
likely to be provided with a jacket and blanket, although the
charity fears forcibly stripping children who are likely to have a
history of sexual abuse or violence is likely to
“traumatise” the child.
Goggins did not specify how long children were held in the cells,
but he said they would be used “for the temporary confinement
of a violent or refractory prisoner and not as punishment”.
He added that as soon as the justification for the use of the
special cell ceased, “the young person will be moved from
Although a Home Office spokesperson insisted last month that the
cells are used for “typically a few hours”, the
League’s director Frances Crook said children have told the
charity they have been held in the cells “for several
The charity is offering to carry out an independent
investigation into the cells using their lawyers and bringing in
the help of children’s charities and social services.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “All of the cells
referred to are the cells which these establishments used for the
temporary confinement (ie a calming measure) of a violent or
refractory prisoner and not as punishment. As soon as the original
justification for the use of the special accommodation has ceased,
the young person will be moved from that accommodation.
She said: “As soon as the original justification for the
confinement has ceased then so the confinement ends. Usually
measured in a small number of hours, only very rarely and very
exceptional cases would it be longer.”