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HMYOI Werrington: an unsafe environment

In its annual report 2020-2021 on HM Young Offender Institution Werrington, the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) reports that it considered Werrington such an unsafe environment that it escalated its concerns to both the Executive Director of the Youth Custody Service and the Director General for Prisons in July 2021.

The teenage boys held at Werrington were largely from the Midlands and had created gangs which led to assaults. Another reason for violence was their frustration at being locked up for more than 22 hours a day, particularly when staffing levels were low and especially at weekends.

However, the Board also notes that the boys have benefited from

  • good, professional care by the staff;
  • the installation of phones in all boys’ rooms for improved contact with family and friends as well as the partial installation of in-room showers and cabling for laptops; and
  • during the pandemic, regular contact with healthcare, chaplaincy and social work staff who continued to visit or phone them  in their rooms.

The IMB Chair, Sally Osborne-Town, said “It is important to mention that violence continued throughout the year, often making YOI Werrington a dangerous place. The fashioning of homemade weapons, the planned assaults of boys on boys (or staff) and the deliberate vandalism of their own rooms occasionally made life at Werrington unsafe in the eyes of the IMB. The Board felt that ‘the atmosphere of threat and intimidation’, especially on the residential wings and in the education department, did not help young offenders to resettle into a crime-free future after release. Moreover, the extended periods of 22 hour lock-up amounted to prolonged solitary confinement of children, which is prohibited under international law”