Martin Narey has controversially challenged the findings of a highly critical joint inspection into a privately run youth prison.
The G4S-run Rainsbrook secure training centre, which caters for boys as young as 14, was criticised in May for subjecting children to “degrading treatment, racist comments and being cared for by staff who were under the influence of illegal drugs”.
In a follow-up report of the centre this month, commissioned by G4S, Narey disputed the findings of the original report, which was based on inspections by Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission and HM Inspectorate of Prisons
He said “very challenging children” were treated “overwhelmingly well” at the centre, adding: “I doubt that any such improvement has been signifcant enough to explain the discrepancy between the inspectorates’ conclusion and mine”.
He claimed incidents causing inspectors to label the centre inadequate had been dealt with by G4S and the Youth Justice Board.
Narey said negative publicity following the report, which included the chief executive of The Howard League for Penal Reform saying “no child is safe in this jail”, had adversely affected recruitment at the facility.
“It was clear to me that children felt generally safe, due in no small part to the constant presence of unit staff who, as well as accompanying them to education and other activities, take the children to the dining room and dine with them,” he said.
Narey said improvements were needed to challenge the children and get them to accept more responsibility for their offending, and that some had received a “barrage of short-term interventions”.
The inspectorates’ recommendations for improvement should be accepted, he said. But he added: “I don’t believe the inadequacies those improvements address, mean that Rainsbrook is, or was, an unsafe place for children.”
In a joint response to Narey’s review – which was conducted over four days – Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission and HM Inspectorate of Prisons – which sent seven inspectors to review the centre for 10 days each (a total of 70 inspection days) – said they “fully stand by” their report and were “puzzled” by Narey’s findings.
A statement read: “It is encouraging that Sir Martin is able to paint such a positive picture of the centre on the basis of his own recent visit, commissioned by G4S. However, we are puzzled how he is able to conclude from this visit that Rainsbrook was not an inadequate and unsafe institution at the time of our joint inspection.”
“The centre was found to be inadequate for overall effectiveness on the basis that the management of behaviour over the previous 12 months had deteriorated. There had been serious incidents of gross misconduct by staff, including some in a position of leadership. Ten staff had been dismissed. This poor staff behaviour had led to some young people being subject to degrading and disturbing treatment, racist comments and being cared for by staff who were under the influence of illegal drugs.”
The Youth Justice Board welcomed Narey’s report and said it “continues to work closely with G4S to ensure improvements recommended by the inspectorates are acted upon”.