Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Sex Fears for Teen Inmates at Prison

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

Sex Fears for Teen Inmates at Prison

Article excerpt

Byline: Angus Hoy

The practice of holding young prisoners, particularly those who are vulnerable and may previously have been exposed to abuse, on adult prisoner units is inherently unsafe and should cease

- The HM Inspectorate of Prisons report

Prisoners as young as 18 have been housed alongside serious sex offenders at a Teesside jail, a shock report revealed today.

Fears have been raised that overcrowding at Stockton's Holme House Prison may have led to young inmates being "groomed" for abuse.

Chief Prisons Inspector Anne Owers condemned the situation as "inherently unsafe" and called for the practice to cease immediately.

And Stockton North MP Frank Cook today called for urgent action to protect those at risk.

The HM Inspectorate of Prisons report published today concludes that Holme House had been "allowed to drift" and highlighted "serious shortfalls in... safety, respect and activity".

The men's jail, opened in 1992 and one of the largest in England and Wales with 1,000 inmates, held 39 young adults on remand when inspectors visited between March 31 and April 3 this year.

Some of the 18 to 20-year-olds were housed in the Vulnerable Prisoner Unit alongside convicted rapists, child abusers and other sex offenders.

"Staff on the VPU alerted inspectors to a situation where they believed that a young prisoner was being groomed by an adult prisoner on the wing," said the report.

"We do not believe that remanded young prisoners should ever be held in VPUs. The practice of holding young prisoners, particularly those who are vulnerable and may previously have been exposed to abuse, on adult prisoner units is inherently unsafe and should cease."

The report added: "Risk assessments should be conducted to ensure that they are protected from potential harm associated with their location with adults."

The inspectors said anti-bullying strategies needed to be improved, especially as staff believed bullying was on the increase. …

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