Strip-searching of young offenders slammed by inspector

The strip-searching of inmates at Werrington young offender institution has been slammed by the chief inspector of prisons.

In two cases boys had their clothes “unecessarily” cut off them while they were being restrained, causing them “distress,” an unannounced inspection of the YOI  found.

Chief inspector of prisons Anne Owers said she had been “appalled” by a video recording of a young person being strip-searched and having his clothes cut off.

“Whatever the provocation, excessive reaction of this kind is unacceptable,” her report published today said.

The report also found safeguarding of children at the YOI had declined since the departure of a social worker due to uncertainty over funding of the post and staff shortages.

“The social worker had begun to add value to the child protection remit of the safeguarding team in her work with looked-after children and children in need assessments. Her departure because of the longstanding uncertainty about the future funding of her post had left a gap for the safeguarding team, but also, importantly, in services for the young people at Werrington,” the report said.

The Howard League for Penal Reform called for a child protection investigation into the practice of strip-searching at the YOI.

Phil Wheatley, director general of the prison service, said he had seen the video of the young person being strip-searched and reviewed it.

“I am convinced that at no point in the process was he compliant and that the staff involved dealt with the incident correctly in the circumstances, when faced by a difficult and disturbed young man,” he said.

Community Care reported in August that almost half of the social workers placed in YOIs under a £1 million Youth Justice Board scheme had left due to funding uncertainty.

The scheme began in April 2005 and funding was extended to March 2008, but no funding has been decided beyond this date as yet.

More information

Chief inspector of prisons

Essential information about youth justice



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