More than half of boys in Young Offender Institutions are from a black or minority ethnic background, a report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons has found.
The level of boys from BME backgrounds in YOIs in 2017-18 is the highest rate recorded since 2001 when the surveys in the secure estate began.
Nearly a quarter (23%) of boys in YOIs identified as Muslim and fewer than one boy in 10 (6%) identified themselves as being from a Gypsy, Romany or Traveller background.
Almost 40 per cent of boys in YOIs had been in local authority care at some point while almost one fifth had a disability, the report found.
Half of children (50%) in YOIs reported that they had been physically restrained in their establishment. When asked if they had ever felt unsafe at their establishment, 40% of boys said they had felt unsafe.
In relation to children being held in Secure Training Centres, the survey found that during 2017–18, 42% of all children in STCs identified as being from a black or other minority ethnic background.
Eight per cent of children in STCs were female, one in eight (13%) children identified as Muslim and the proportion who said they were from a Gypsy, Romany or Traveller background was 11%, which compares with estimates of 0.01% in the population as a whole.
Over one third of children in STCs in 2017-18 reported feeling unsafe at some point since arriving at the STC. Fourteen per cent felt unsafe at the time of the inspection and over half of children (56%) in STCs reported that they had been physically restrained in the centre. Nearly a third of children (30%) reported being victimised by other children by being shouted at through windows.
A comparison between the survey responses of young people held in YOIs and STCs during 2017–18 showed that children in STCs were more likely to report that staff treated them with respect (87% compared with 64% in YOIs).
HM Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke said: “Last year I commented on the broader context in which our surveys had taken place. I pointed out that in February 2017 I had written to Dr Phillip Lee, then Minister for Victims, Youth and Family Justice, expressing my concerns that at that time, HM Inspectorate of Prisons could not classify any STC or YOI as safe enough to hold children.
“This year there have been some encouraging signs of improvement in safety at some establishments, but history tells us that all too often early signs of improvement have not been sustained.
“Even though there has been some welcome improvement in inspection findings, it is notable that there has been no statistically significant shift in the perceptions of children about their treatment and conditions – either in STCs or YOIs. Too many children (34% in STCs and 40% in YOIs) report having felt unsafe since coming into custody.
“It is also interesting to note that significantly more (87%) of children in STCs report being treated respectfully by staff than the 64% of boys who do so in YOIs. In light of what our thematic report found about what works in incentivising good behaviour, this is clearly an important finding and deserves to be fully understood,” he concluded
Children in Custody 2017–18: An analysis of 12–18-year-olds’ perceptions of their experiences in secure training centres and young offender institutions