'Squalid' Brinsford 'should close'

Hampshire Chronicle: HMP/YOI Brinsford, near Wolverhampton HMP/YOI Brinsford, near Wolverhampton

There have been calls for a young offenders institution to be closed down after inspectors found that inmates were living in "squalid conditions" among the worst ever seen.

Inmates at HMYOI Brinsford had been living in dirty cells which contained graffiti and were poorly furnished, HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) said following an unannounced inspection.

A report added that some did not have window panes, leaving inmates exposed to the elements, and there was no toilet screening in a number of shared cells.

Chief inspector of prisons Nick Hardwick said: "These are the worst overall findings my inspectorate has identified in a single prison during my tenure as chief inspector. Across all of our four tests of a healthy prison, we found outcomes to be poor."

As a result, the Howard League for Penal Reform has called for the institution, adjacent to Featherstone and Oakwood prisons near Wolverhampton, to be closed, and for the Government to use community sentences instead.

Chief executive Frances Crook said: "The inspection of Brinsford prison reveals an unsafe, ineffective and violent institution that should be immediately closed.

"The Government needs to start to reconsider its policy of wasting public funds and young people's lives behind bars."

Mr Hardwick added: "Many prisoners were living in squalid conditions. As a result, we considered some cells unfit for occupancy."

The inspection also found that there is insufficient activity for inmates, with just under one third of the population unemployed and only allowed out of their cells for about one hour a day.

Other failings found at Brinsford included poor support for those in crisis and 41% of prisoners feeling unsafe at some point during their stay.

However, faith facilities and health care at Brinsford were both found to be good.

Since the inspection a new governor has been appointed.

Michael Spurr, chief executive officer of the National Offender Management Service, said: "The prison is now clean, safe, ordered and is operating to an acceptable standard... I am confident that when inspectors return they will see a much improved establishment."

Deborah Coles, co-director of Inquest, a charity providing free advice to people bereaved by a death in custody, said: " This report is a damning indictment of the regimes and conditions for young people in Brinsford prison. It is appalling that recommendations made following previous inspections had not been acted on and indeed the situation had been allowed to deteriorate.

"How can we hold the state to account when it allows the prison service to ignore its official watchdog? Once again fundamental questions have to be asked about how we treat young people in conflict with the law."

A BBC documentary will feature Ada m Rushton, 20, who died at Brinsford in 2009 when he was found hanged from the bars of his bunk bed having suffered abuse and neglect as a child, according to the BBC.

:: Dead Behind Bars will be broadcast on BBC Three tomorrow at 9pm.

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