YOI Cookham Wood to be converted into adult prison due to concerns over young people’s safety

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Cookham Wood, a young offenders’ institution, is to be repurposed as an adult prison after facing criticism over its “violent” culture and boys spending long hours in solitary confinement.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has announced that a center in Rochester, Kent, which detains boys aged 15 to 17, will operate as an adult male prison by the summer, with juvenile offenders transferred to other secure locations.

A report by the Chief Inspector of Prisons last April said the site, which dates back to the 1970s, was about two-thirds full and housed 77 boys.

The report states: “The most obvious failure at Cookham Wood was the almost complete failure of behavior management.

“Nearly a quarter of the boys said they felt in danger, given the prevalence of delinquent behavior and the more than 200 weapons discovered in the months leading up to the inspection. This may not be surprising.

“The lack of confidence and self-confidence observed among staff in dealing with young people suggested that some of them may have felt at risk.

“Inspectors observed repeated intimidating and threatening behavior by children, including insulting and pushing staff away, which went unchecked.”

As part of the report, an emergency notice was issued to Cookham Wood over concerns about the standard of care provided to young offenders with complex needs.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said the action plan had been drawn up by the Youth Protection Agency, but added: “It has become clear that the further improvements needed cannot be delivered at the scale required within an acceptable period of time.” .

The spokesperson added: “To increase prison capacity, the facility will operate as an adult men’s prison as early as the summer, although options for longer-term use are being considered.”

“Young offenders currently housed at Cookham Wood will be transferred to other parts of the secure youth housing complex to provide them with the ongoing support they need to turn their backs on crime for good. It turns out.

“They will be moved on a case-by-case basis, taking into account their specific needs, input from other professionals and the need to maintain family ties.

“These transfers are carried out under supervision and in consultation with families and youth offender teams.

“The new site includes a secure school scheduled to open on an adjacent site this spring, the first of its kind to deliver a radical new approach to youth protection that puts education and wellbeing at its heart.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said the number of children in custody had fallen by nearly 70% over the past decade, and that most children still in custody had committed violent crimes and were “complicated children who required extensive support”. He said he was involved with “vulnerable children”.

Edward Argar, Minister for Prisons and Youth Justice, said: ‘We are transforming the provision of detention for young offenders and have seen a significant reduction in the number of young people in custody over the past decade. ” he said.

“People housed in our youth housing complexes have very complex needs and often commit violent crimes, and Cookham Wood can no longer meet their needs.

“This is why we are announcing plans to move them into facilities to provide them with better support and help them turn away from a life of crime, as well as increasing the capacity of our adult male premises.”

Welcoming the decision, Children’s Commissioner Dame Rachel de Sousa said:

“While strong action is welcome, it is premature as the configuration has failed in all four test areas, including safety, in all inspections dating back to 2019.

“The last time I was there, the kids told my team that the environment was definitely not safe.

“They spoke of experiences of violence, including stabbings, and a lack of confidence that they would be kept safe by those in charge.”

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