Frequent prison switches take toll on rehabilitation of young adults

The education and mental health of young adult offenders are being
affected by frequent moves between prisons, exclusive research for
Community Care has found.

The Prison Reform Trust study, commissioned for our Back on Track
campaign, questioned independent monitoring boards (IMBs), which
evaluate prison conditions, about establishments that hold 18 to 20
year olds.

Half of the IMBs outlined problems caused by the upheaval – or
“churn” – of offenders being switched to other prisons to make
space for new arrivals.

“If 15 come in from the courts we will have to ship out 15,” said
Brinsford IMB in its response.

“Moving people on like this has become a fact of life and we have
learned to manage it. When the boys arrive they are often
bewildered and don’t know where they are.”

In her inspection report on Lancaster Farms Young Offender
Institution, chief prisons inspector Anne Owers highlighted that
between October last year and January, 303 young adults had been
transferred to other establishments.

One IMB member described a young man who had spent time in five
different establishments in fewer than six months.

“Movement on this scale severely disrupts an older teenager’s
development,” said Enver Solomon, the author of the research.

He added that constant change such as this could damage young
people who may have spent unsettled periods of their lives in care
or living away from home.

Two thirds of young adults reported that being moved to another
prison had made it difficult for them to keep in contact with their

A Home Office spokesperson acknowledged that population pressures
were affecting offending behaviour work in prisons and the distance
offenders were held from home. However, she said the department
“refuted” allegations that it was failing to meet the needs of
young offenders.

Extra funding for education in YOIs had been provided and the
Prison Service was working hard to ensure offenders had the
training and skills to help them rehabilitate, she added.

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