Fears for inmates voiced

Overcrowding could lead to a rise in the number of deaths in youth custody, a conference in London was told.

Neil Beales, head of safeguarding at Huntercombe Young Offender Institution in Oxfordshire, said he was “very concerned” that staff were unable to communicate properly with inmates because they did not have time.

He told the conference organised by the Howard League for Penal Reform that cross-deployment of staff between wings in the Huntercombe “interfered” with efforts to address offending behaviour.

Beales said: “We need to get staff back to where they belong – communicating with prisoners and getting to the root of their problems. The population overload is helping to destroy the very fabric of what should go on inside prisons.”

Helen Martin, a youth offending team officer from Hounslow youth offending team in west London, echoed Beale’s concern about Huntercombe YOI and said there were not enough staff to let young offenders out of their cells for education.

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