6 Aug 2014

Glen Parva prison ‘unsafe’ for young offenders

Senior Home Affairs Correspondent

Another prison holding young male adults is condemned for “unacceptable” conditions by inspectors who found high levels of violence, drugs and self harm.

An unannounced visit by the chief inspector of prisons to Glen Parva jail in Leicestershire also saw evidence of, in effect, protection rackets, where prisoners were charging “rent” for cells and threatening violence if this wasn’t paid.

One mother told Channel 4 News that had written to Chief Inspector Nick Hardwick describing how her son, who suffers mental health problems, was the victim of repeated attacks inside Glen Parva, the last one leaving him with a broken jaw.

As a result of her letter, she said that the prison governor had visited her son in jail to investigate his safety. This was the first time the prison has shown a sense of duty of care to her son, she added.

The Howard League for Penal Reform Director Frances Crook compared the situation to something out of Lord of the Flies and said the prison was dangerous for teenagers.

The chief inspector’s report designates Glen Parva, which holds more than 650 young male adults aged 19 to 21-years-old, as “unsafe”.

The report also highlights at least a 25 per cent increase in assaults on both prisoners and staff, and describes it as a place where poor behaviour went unchallenged by staff. In the last year alone, three inmates have committed suicide.

The inspection also found that half the prison population were doubled up in cells designed for one.

Staff cuts

This latest report follow a trend of equally worrying and critical findings in other young offender institutions including Aylesbury, Brinsford, Feltham and Isis in south London.

The Howard League for Penal Reform told Channel 4 News that new figures show that the number of prison staff at Glen Parva has been cut by more than a third in the last three years: from 250 in 2010 to 160 in 2013.

In a statement, Mr Hardwick said Glen Parva was a “concerning institution”. Although he said that plans were in place to address some of the problems, he added: “some of the challenges Glen Parva faces are outside its direct control and the planned review of arrangements for holding young adults, and the current independent inquiry into recent self-inflicted deaths among this age group, need to proceed urgently.”