As the public inquiry into the death of Zahid Mubarek in Feltham
Young Offender Institution comes to an end, the sense of
expectation has been heightened by another round of revelations.
The discovery of 53 tapes which allegedly went missing during the
Commission for Racial Equality’s earlier investigation may help to
cast light on some of the knotty problems that remain to be
unravelled before the public inquiry produces its report.
The newly revealed practice of detaining young offenders in
specially designated cells in adult prisons is certainly one issue
that ought to be confronted. Offenders aged between 18 and 21 are
supposed to be moved to a YOI within two weeks of conviction, but
chronic overcrowding in the prison system has sometimes made this
Reclassifying individual cells in adult prisons as YOIs cannot
be the answer, not least because the panoply of support
theoretically available in genuine YOIs is likely to be absent. If
there are times when the attentions of older inmates can actually
benefit younger prisoners, this should be part of a formal
arrangement and not left to the luck of the draw.