In England and Wales many young people aged 15-18 are still detained in prison, and while there has been an overall decline in prison numbers in 2009-2010, concerns remain regarding custodial conditions. In the foreword to the report, Nick Hardwick, the Chief Inspector of Prisons notes:
Reading the report it is clear some welcome progress has been made. However, much remains depressingly familiar and in some areas treatment and conditions appear to have deteriorated.
In particular, the report notes the disproportionate numbers of young people from black and ethnic minority backgrounds who are in custody – 33% of young men and 32% of young women in the sample, and the differential experiences of custody for these young people:
Fewer black and minority ethnic young men reported feeling safe during their most recent journey compared with white young men (68% compared with 78%). Fewer felt that they were treated well or very well by escort staff (51% compared with 58% of white young men) and, similarly, 66% of black and minority ethnic young men felt they were treated well or very well in reception compared with 74% of white young men.
59% of black and minority ethnic young men, compared with 66% of white young men, said they could shower every day if they wanted to. Fewer black and minority ethnic men and women felt that the shop/canteen sold a wide enough variety of products to meet their needs.
Only 57% of black and minority ethnic young men, compared with 76% of white young men, said that staff treated them with respect.
Of those young men who said they had an emotional or mental health problem, 62% of black and minority ethnic young men and 37% of white young men said that they were not receiving any help.
Only 75% of black and minority ethnic young women, compared with 97% of white young women, knew how to make a complaint. Only 29% of black and minority ethnic young men, compared with 45% of white young men, felt that their complaints were dealt with fairly.
More black and minority ethnic young men reported victimisation by staff (26% compared with 21%) and fewer felt that staff would take it seriously if they reported it (34% compared with 44% of white young men).
There were poorer responses from black and ethnic minority young men to all the questions on keeping in touch with family and friends. Only 49% said that they could use the telephone daily compared with 60% of white young men.
In addition to these reported disparities, further differential experiences were noted between Muslim and non-Muslim young men, with more Muslim young men reporting negative experiences. The findings of the report raise serious and continued concerns regarding custodial conditions for all young people and in particular for those from minority backgrounds. You can read the full report here: HMIP children report 2010