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News | 05.07.2017

Howard League responds to Feltham prison inspection

The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons’ reports on Feltham prison, published today (Friday 30 June).

Inspectors visited the prison, in west London, in January and February. It is split into two parts: ‘Feltham A’, which holds boys, and ‘Feltham B’, which holds young men. Both parts are criticised heavily in today’s reports.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “These are two of the worst in a long line of terrible prison inspection reports. It is all the more disturbing that they concern children and young people.

“These children are suffering abuse and neglect by the state. Feltham has failed to care for children and help them turn their lives around for decades. It is time to put an end to this abusive failing system and properly help children live law-abiding lives.

“The inspectors’ findings add weight to the concerns raised in the High Court by the Howard League. The huge volume of calls that we have received about this prison should leave no one in any doubt about the scale of the problem.

“Thousands of children and teenagers have been subjected to appalling treatment over the last two decades. The government must act now to prevent more children being subjected to such misery.”

In his introduction to the report on Feltham A, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons, Peter Clarke, writes that it is “deeply troubling that in an establishment of this kind the judgements awarded to the key areas of safety and purposeful activity had sunk to the lowest level”.

Violence had risen significantly to the point where the site “is, quite simply, not safe for either staff or boys”. Use of force had increased to a rate of 378 incidents per 100 children since the last inspection, when it had been at 273. Not all staff working with children in Feltham had been trained in techniques for managing and minimising physical restraint. Staff in the segregation unit, which contains both children and young adults, continued to use control and restraint techniques designed for adult prisoners and carried batons. In Feltham B, almost half of the prisoners told inspectors that they had felt unsafe during their time in the prison.

Inspectors found responses to violence in Feltham A ineffective and that the regime did little or nothing to contribute to the education or safety of the children. Forty per cent of the children were locked up during the school day and 30 per cent were out of their cells for just two hours a day. Boys on the most restricted regime could have as little as 30 minutes a day out of their cells for showers, phone calls and time outside. All children had every single meal alone, locked in their cells.

The inspectors’ findings echo concerns that the Howard League legal team has raised about the treatment of young people in Feltham, including the use of adult restraint techniques on children.

Two months ago, the Howard League went to the High Court to make a legal challenge on behalf of a boy who had been held in prolonged solitary confinement in Feltham. The court heard that the boy had been denied any educational provision for months. Judgment in the case is awaited.

The Howard League has been contacted about 150 legal issues in Feltham in the last year, with 78 per cent of calls coming from, or on behalf of, BAME children and young people.

The charity’s lawyers have been contacted by or on behalf of young people who are being regularly isolated for more than 23 hours a day; denied access to education; discriminated against; unable to access healthcare when required; and being restrained using inappropriate force, in one case causing a dislocated shoulder.

Inspectors found that the regime in Feltham A had declined from the “totally inadequate” average of time out of cell for each boy of five and a half hours at the last inspection: at the time of the inspection, on average, children were getting just four and a half hours out of their cells each day against the Inspectorate’s standard of a minimum of 10 hours out of cell each day

The prison had enough school places and teachers, but fewer than half of the boys were getting to lessons – 19,000 hours of schooling had been lost in the past year due to non-attendance and cancellation of classes. Although the Young Offender Rules stipulate that children must have 15 hours of education a week, on average boys were receiving just half of that. The education outreach provision did not meet the needs of children who did not attend education classes.

Some boys were given as little as 10 minutes in the open air each day, giving inspectors significant concerns the “lack of sunlight and exercise must carry implications for the health and well-being of teenage boys”.

Shower rooms were squalid. Only three in five boys said that they could have a shower every day.

The situation was little better in Feltham B, where inspectors noted that some of the young men were locked in their cells for more than 22 hours each day. Numerous restrictions and staffing shortfalls meant that most prisoners were not provided with a full regime.

The Feltham B report notes that the prison “seemed to be locked into a negative cycle of responding to violence with punitive measures and placing further restrictions on the regime to keep people apart”.

“This response had not worked,” the report adds, “and there did not appear to be any coherent plan to address the issue of behaviour management in a different or more positive way.”

Notes to editors

  1. The Howard League for Penal Reform is the oldest penal reform charity in the world. It is a national charity working for less crime, safer communities and fewer people in prison.
  2. More information about the Howard League’s legal challenge to the prolonged solitary confinement of a boy in Feltham prison can be found on the charity’s website:
  3. A copy of the Feltham prison inspection report will be available from Friday 30 June on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website:


Rob Preece
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