New chief frowns at overuse of strip cells

Special cells in young offenders institutions should only ever be
used sparingly, according to the new chair of the Youth Justice

“I have always argued there has to be very sparing use of isolation
and things like stripping and strip cells,” said Rod Morgan, who
last week took up the new post.

“If there is any evidence of excessive resort, if there is evidence
of prolonged use of isolation or stripping procedures, then it’s
something that would concern me because I think there are usually
other ways of handling these things.”

Community Care revealed in December that children displaying
disruptive or challenging behaviour at Stoke Heath Young Offenders
Institution, Shropshire, were being placed in cells with no toilet
or furniture.

At the time, the Home Office said they were “as certain as they
could be” that the special cells only existed at Stoke Heath. But
prisons minister Paul Goggins was later forced to admit that the
cells existed in 19 establishments and were used 154 times in

The Home Office claims confinement would usually be for “typically
a few hours” and only in “very exceptional cases would it be
longer”. But Howard League for Penal Reform director Frances Crook
said she feared children were held in these conditions for several

Home secretary David Blunkett pledged during a recent interview
with Community Care that no one would be held in such
conditions “unless it was an emergency measure”.

“YOIs are inspected regularly. If there are unacceptable conditions
they will be dealt with by Paul Goggins,” Blunkett said. “People
should not only be treated well but the circumstances in which they
are held should be acceptable.”

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