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Concerns raised about conditions at young offenders institution in Kent

INSPECTORS have raised concerns about the conditions at Cookham Wood Young Offender Institution (YOI) in Kent, which holds up to 188 boys aged between 15 and 18.

Cookham Wood was branded “not sufficiently good” in all areas of an inspection in September after a deterioration in quality of care since 2018.

In a report published today, Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke urges managers to prioritise “conflict resolution work” to reduce violence.

He said: “The number of violent incidents remained too high and the need to keep children apart from each other had a negative impact on their regime.

“Staffing shortages and redeployment of specialist conflict-resolution staff to support the regime compounded the problem.”

The issues were detected while the Cookham Wood was running at “near capacity,” having taken in offenders transferred from Feltham A YOI in the wake of an “extraordinary” plunge in safety levels at the west London site.

Staff use of force had risen to a high level, according to the report.

Just over a quarter of children were locked in their cells during the school day, with access to the gym and library restricted.

Most had just five hours a day outside their cells during the week and two hours at weekends, the inspectors added.

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