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Female Prisoner at Risk of Self-Harm Restrained and Stripped Twice by Male Guards

Credits: Daily Telegraph

A girl held in a young offenders’ institution (YOI) was subjected to a distressing experience, according to a report from the prison watchdog.

Chief inspector of prisons Charlie Taylor expressed deep shock at the findings, which revealed that the girl, described as “incredibly vulnerable,” was forcibly stripped by a group of male prison guards at Wetherby Young Offenders Institution in West Yorkshire.

The report highlighted the challenging nature of the children held at Wetherby, likening them to the equivalent of men in category A adult jails.

Female Prisoner Stripped By Male Guards (Credits: The Australian)

Nearly half of the children at Wetherby have previously been in council care, and the institution has the highest rate of self-harm of any prison in the country, with officers frequently intervening at night to prevent self-harm incidents.

The inspection found that the practice of long periods locked alone in cells was not meeting the needs of these vulnerable girls. Concerns were also raised about the frequency of strip searches and the use of force against child inmates.

Mr. Taylor criticized the YOI for not ensuring that female officers were present during the incidents involving the girl. He acknowledged the need to prevent serious harm but emphasized that the presence of multiple men would have caused further trauma.

The report revealed that 24 children were strip-searched in the last 12 months, with 12 of those taking place while they were being restrained.

Techniques that caused pain to restrain a child were used nine times in the last 12 months but were deemed inappropriate on each occasion by an independent review panel.

Despite some positive relationships between staff and children, the report highlighted staffing shortages as a significant issue. The prison’s governor was credited for positive relationships but criticized for a lack of frequent, structured contact with staff due to a shortage of officers.

Campbell Robb, chief executive of social justice charity Nacro, described the findings as disturbing and emphasized the need for immediate action to improve conditions for these vulnerable children.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson stated that custody should always be the last resort for children who commit crimes and highlighted the significant decrease in the number of girls in youth custody since 2015. They emphasized that restraint is only used in rare circumstances to prevent serious harm.

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