The reporting year for Wetherby Independent Monitoring Board runs from 1st June 2015 to 31st May 2016 and in common with the other Young Offenders Institutes in the prison estate it has been a challenging one. There are about 250 young people between the ages of 15 and 18 who come from a very large geographical area.
The Board comprising eleven members has made over 400 visits to the establishment during the year and notes that much good work goes on. They are aware of the care and compassion shown on a daily basis by the officers and staff who work with these young people, many of whom present with challenging behaviour and complex needs.
The levels of violence are unprecedented, not only between young people, but inflicted by them upon both male and female officers, 117assaults have taken place 19 of which are classified as having caused grievous bodily harm.
Staffing levels have been stretched in part due to sickness, but also because officers have been removed on detached duty to support understaffed establishments elsewhere in the country. There have been many instances when the young people have not had the regime which they not only require, but are entitled.
There would now appear to be more young people in Wetherby YOI with mental health needs and sometimes it has taken an unacceptably long time to find suitable provision for them in a secure hospital.
The late arrival of young people from court continues to be of great concern, this is an issue upon which all staff and Board members are united in believing to be falling significantly short of humane treatment and good practice even though it may comply with contractual arrangements.
Young people may finish in court at noon and not arrive at Wetherby until as late as ten o’clock at night having travelled around the country in a prison van. Adult male prisons close at 6pm which means that the young people are frequently the last to be dropped off. Once they arrive it can take a further two hours to complete the checks and forms.
The Board has asked the Minister of Prisons, Probation and Rehabilitation what is being done to reduce the levels of violence, what measures are in place to improve mental health care provision for these young people and what steps are being undertaken to alleviate late arrivals.