Care for young women good, but strip-searching ‘inappropriate’ at Cookham Wood YOI girls’ unit, inspection finds

Young women are subjected to “inappropriate” routine strip-searching at Cookham Wood young offender institution’s new dedicated girls’ unit, an inspection report said today.

The chief inspector of prisons also raised concerns that staff placed young women at Sir Evelyn House in a special cell when they refused to co-operate instead of using more positive approaches to managing their behaviour.

The report also said improvements were needed in managing race, diversity and education at the unit which houses 17-18 year-olds. It also found access to services including healthcare was “adversely affected” by staff shortages.

Overall, provision at the 17-person unit was “good and positive” with close one-to-one supervision by “caring and thoughtful” staff, and little self-harming, bullying and “minimal” substance misuse.

Anne Owers, chief inspector of prisons, said: “While there must be real concerns as to why such damaged young women are imprisoned at all, staff do so with commendable care and attention – and with a strong commitment in helping them not to return to crime.”

It was the first inspection of the unit, which opened in 2005.

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