‘Beaten’ prisoners win compensation

Seven former young offenders, who claim they were assaulted by
prison officers at Portland Young Offenders Institution, have been
awarded £120,000 by the prison service in an out-of-court

The prisoners were aged between 16 and 21 at the time and claim
they were punched, kicked, slapped and had their heads slammed
repeatedly against the floor in the segregation block by prison
officers who tore their clothes off them during strip searches. A
three-week trial had been due to begin in Weymouth this week.

“These seven are only the tip of an iceberg,” said Nogah Ofer,
solicitor for the young offenders. The police had investigated 53

An inquiry by the Howard League for Penal Reform revealed that, in
some cases, false charges of assaulting officers were levelled
against prisoners who were then punished by having their sentences

Portland YOI was criticised by the chief inspector of prisons in
1999 for its overly “militaristic” regime but governors denied
assault allegations.

The Howard League believes the high level of compensation in these
cases reflects the prison service’s recognition of the seriousness
of the abuse. Assistant director Fran Russell said safety nets had
failed to prevent the abuse of prisoners. “Prison service
management, the board of visitors and local social services all
either failed or refused to act,” she said.

The prison service stated: “We accept there were failings at
Portland in the past. However, the prison has improved considerably
since then.” The service had suspended four prison officers on
receiving the Howard League’s dossier.

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