Private managers accused of putting profit before young people

A private company which runs Ashfield young offenders
institution puts profit before the welfare and safety of young
people, according to the Howard League for Penal Reform,
writes Clare Jerrom.

Problems identified in Britain’s only private juvenile
prison include low levels of staffing, lack of experience or
training amongst staff and high staff turnover, according to the
report, which is the third in a series of reports examining
conditions at prison juvenile units.

It claims the root of Ashfield’s problems is an inability
to recruit and retain staff because of poor pay and conditions
offered by Premier Prisons.

Wing officers at Ashfield, near Bristol, start on a salary of
£15,250, rising to £16,250. This is in comparison to
salaries of £17,129 rising to a maximum of £24,497 in
public sector jails.

Report author Charlotte Day, who is a policy officer at the
Howard League, said: “There have been acute difficulties recruiting
and retaining staff. Simply to employ the requisite numbers of
people Premier has been taking on staff without any previous
experience of dealing with young people or of working in a
custodial environment.”

In May this year director general of the Prison Service, Martin
Narey, exercised emergency powers under the Criminal Justice Act
1991 to remove Premier’s director at the prison, and replaced
him with a Prison Service governor. Narey took this step because he
considered the prison was unsafe for prisoners and staff.

Children in Prison: Provision and practice at Ashfield is
available from 020 7249 7373.

* The resettlement strategy at Preston prison has been
praised by the chief inspector of prisons.

Preston was described by Anne Owers as ‘embracing the
resettlement agenda in a way that may well be unique in the Prison

Remand prisoners and short sentence prisoners were included in a
comprehensive strategy that involved assessing their needs on
arrival in prison and providing assistance with employment,
housing, family ties and community contact.

An unannounced inspection of Preston was carried out in

The prison was also congratulated on excellent staff-prisoner
relationships. The inspectorate found that Preston was a healthy
prison in which the majority of the recommendations of the full
inspection in 1999 had been effectively actioned.

The report ‘Through the prison gate’ is available from

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