Action on mental health and tougher approach to assults needed at HMYOI Wetherby, says IMB report

The Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) at HM YOI Wetherby – made up of volunteers appointed by ministers to check that prisoners are treated humanely – today published its annual report for 2018/19.

The report says that it continues to be a well-managed Young Offenders Institution, holding around 240 extremely challenging young people between the ages of 15 and 18. Over half of the population have committed violent offences and around one in eight are held for sexual offences.

The Governor and staff have worked hard and effectively to improve the establishment although just over a third of the staff have less than a year’s experience.

However, the Board raises a number of concerns:

  • urgent attention needs to be given to address the causes of the violent behaviour that results in more and more young people being placed at Wetherby and other YOIs.
  • too many young people are coming to Wetherby with complex mental health needs and wait too long to be appropriately placed elsewhere. At the end of the reporting year there were five young people with severe mental health needs awaiting transfer to a hospital placement and, as last year, there remains an unacceptable delay.
  • while the Board is pleased that assaults in general are down it is unfortunate that all too frequently, assaults resulting in significant injury to staff or prisoners and requiring hospital treatment are not dealt with rigorously enough – the incidents are referred to the police but are not taken sufficiently seriously and no charge is brought; only internal prison penalties are imposed. The Board believes that not only is this demoralising for the victim of such an assault, but it does not act as sufficient deterrent to potential perpetrators.

Catherine Porter, Chair of the IMB, said: “Over the last few years we have observed many much-needed improvements put in place, whilst also dealing with significantly more complex young people. Most young people report to the Board that they find Wetherby to be better than they expected.

“That said, many of the concerns that we raise this year and in our previous Annual Reports remain the same. They are not the responsibility of the Governor but of the Minister for Prisons Lucy Frazer and the Prison Service and urgent action is required.”

Anyone interested in becoming a member of the IMB at Wetherby please see the IMB website for The Board is at present running a recruitment campaign ending on 6 October 2019.