An independent review has been ordered into how ten inmates at a young offender institution suffered fractures while being restrained by staff.
There were seven confirmed and three suspected fractures over the past two years at Castington YOI among juveniles as well as young adults, an inspection from 19-23 January revealed. Most of the injuries were to young people’s wrists and in one case a knee, according to a report published today by the prisons inspectorate.
Investigations into the incidents at the Northumberland YOI were “inconclusive”, but inspectors confirmed that staff had not applied restraint techniques correctly and in some cases had “rushed” into incidents.
They also found that senior managers had recognised the issue and been “robust” in trying to address it.
Anne Owers, chief inspector of prisons, said the number of injuries was “unprecedented” despite overall levels of restraint at the YOI being comparable to other institutions.
She called for an independent review into the use of force at Castington to minimise future risks.
“We have not previously come across so many serious injuries sustained in this way. We recognise that senior staff were themselves greatly concerned by these events, had rigorously investigated each occurrence, had pursued disciplinary issues where they thought this appropriate, and had sought national specialist advice.
‘No coherent explanation for scale of injuries’
“However, no coherent explanation had emerged for the scale and frequency of these injuries. Without a full and objective review of all these incidents, we cannot be assured that they will not recur,” Owers said.
Phil Wheatley, director general of the National Offender Management Service, confirmed that an independent review had been ordered “so that lessons can be learned and the possibility of any repetitions minimised”.
The Prison Reform Trust said it was “very disturbed” by the Castington report and pointed out that nearly half of young people had been physically restrained at the YOI, while more than a quarter reported feeling unsafe.
Penelope Gibbs, director of the trusts’ programme to reduce child and youth imprisonment, said: “This level of insecurity and violence is far too high. The Prison Reform Trust welcomes the announcement of an investigation into the unexplained injuries but we would like to be reassured that the investigation is truly independent and that the wider issues about the use of restraint are examined.”
The findings come less than a year after an independent review of restraint in the juvenile secure estate stopped short of calling for painful techniques to be banned but recommended major changes in the way they were used.
The review was ordered after the inquest last year of 14-year-old Adam Rickwood, who was found hanging in his room at Hassockfield Secure Training Centre in 2004 after being restrained. It also followed the inquest into the death of Gareth Myatt, 15, who died while being restrained at Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre the same year.
A second inquest into Rickwood’s death was ordered in January after a judge ruled that the first one had failed to consider whether staff were legally authorised to use force against him. A date for the second inquest has not been set.