Commenting on the allegations made in the BBC Panorama programme broadcast on Monday 11 January 2016 regarding Medway Secure Training Centre (STC), Peter Dawson, Deputy Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:
“The evidence Panorama has produced is profoundly shocking. Those who abuse and those who turn a blind eye must be brought to book. Police investigations need to be concluded quickly and prosecutions follow.
“The allegation that records are routinely falsified is also very serious, and the future of Medway must be considered by ministers. But the issue goes well beyond one secure training centre. The abuse of authority by staff is a constant and severe risk in any custodial institution. It is one of many reasons why locking up children must always be an absolute last resort. The safeguards in Secure Training Centres (STCs) and Young Offender Institutions are comprehensive in theory. But the fact that they have failed so terribly in this instance must make us ask whether those safeguards actually work.”
Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust
Most people would say they know something about prison. They recognise the abiding austere image of the barred cell window or, in contrast, the holiday camp, beloved by the tabloid press, where old lags are reported to laze at taxpayers' expense. Yet, despite our zest for incarceration, few really know what life is like beyond the locked iron gates.
Prisons are our least visible, most beleaguered public service. At the close of the year, 70 of 117 prisons in England and Wales are overcrowded. As prison numbers soared to over 85,000 in 2015, drastic budget cuts saw staff numbers plummet. Serious assaults rose and purposeful activity fell to highest and lowest recorded levels respectively. The facts and figures about the state of our prisons and the state of people in them are carefully laid out and referenced in our Bromley Briefings Prison Factfile, Autumn 2015.
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On 17 December, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted the revised UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners—the Nelson Mandela Rules.
Whilst not legally binding, the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, adopted sixty years ago, provide guidelines for international and domestic law for citizens held in prisons and other forms of custody; as well as providing the framework for inspection and monitoring of prisoner treatment.
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People held in segregation in prisons experience impoverished regimes with poor levels of purposeful activity. More than half suffer from three or more mental health problems, an in-depth research report published today (17 December 2015) by the Prison Reform Trust reveals. The report finds that segregation units and close supervision centres (CSCs) entail social isolation, inactivity, and increased control of prisoners—a combination proven to harm mental health and wellbeing.
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