Conditions for young prisoners ‘in limbo’ could get worse, says Owers

Young adult prisoners are being placed with adult inmates, including serious and sex offenders, without proper supervision or risk assessment, the chief inspector of prisons has revealed.

Anne Owers HPPrisoners aged from 18 to 21 were being left “in limbo” in overcrowded prisons with the poorest regimes or alongside juveniles who had “visibly better” funding and provision, said Anne Owers (pictured) in her annual report.

Young adults were more likely to be held far away from home than older adults, and spent long periods of time locked in cells with “insufficient” education.

Owers warned the  situation could deteriorate as the government moved to implement legislation to abolish the requirement for convicted 18 to 21- year-olds to be held separately from adults once they are sentenced.

Section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000, which will remove the sentence of detention in young offender institutions for young adults, is due to be implemented this autumn. Owers said some YOIs had already extended their age range to 25.

The chief inspector’s report, published last week, said it was “unclear” how the National Offender Management Service would deal with the changes and questioned whether there would be sufficient resources for young adults.

It said: “It is likely that an already inadequate provision will be stretched over a greatly expanded population, and that the outcome for young prisoners will be to diminish, not to enhance, their prospects of rehabilitation.”

The report also raised concerns over the number and treatment of children and young people with mental health needs being held in prison. It cited one case where a young person had to wait more than a month to be assessed and more than three months to be moved to a secure mental health bed.

It also raised serious concerns over the use of force and control on young people, strip-searching, and special cells for children who self-harm.

And it slammed some of the most overcrowded prisons for recording “unrealistic” figures on time spent out of cell and on activities in order to meet key performance targets.

● Annual Report of Chief Inspector of Prisons for England and Wales from


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