Prisons inspector criticises education opportunities for young offenders

The needs of the “lost generation” of 18- to
20-year-olds in the prison system have been highlighted in a new
report from the chief inspector of prisons.

Following an inspection of Deerbolt young
offenders’ institution in County Durham, Anne Owers has voiced
concern over the problem of insufficient investment in activities
for the 18-20 age group.

Deerbolt is a decent and safe place overall,
with relaxed relations between staff and prisoners, Owers said.
“However, the shortcomings and concerns that we are raising are not
matters that can be addressed by the establishment alone.”

“Unless sufficient resources are put into the
18-20 prison estate, prisons like Deerbolt will remain unable to
provide the educational and training facilities that are vital if
these young men are not to be discharged back into the community
with as little chance of succeeding there as they had when they
went into prison,” she added.

There are few training and education
opportunities at Deerbolt, according to the report. There are
education places for only 30 per cent of the prison population and
the education targets do not meet the needs of most of the young
people there, most of whom are functionally illiterate.

The chief inspector welcomed signs that the
prison service had realised that concentrating education targets on
employability should not be at the expense of those needing
literacy and numeracy “stepping stones” to get there. But Deerbolt
needed more work, especially as young men were spending many hours
locked in their cells.

Sentence planning was another area of
weakness, and the report recommended that sentence planning boards,
which could produce effective plans, should be established as a
matter of urgency.

This, together with a personal officer scheme,
would enable officers to engage with and motivate prisoners.

However, the report praised the safe
environment, as the prison had not had a suicide in 11 years and
operated an effective listener scheme. The home detention curfew
system was well managed and working effectively, the report

“The resources now available for children in
prisons only serve to highlight the impoverished regimes that are
available for young adults, who are most likely to reoffend, and
are in great need of direction and support to change their
lifestyles,” Owers concluded.

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