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Concern becomes crisis in our prisons.

Concerns over the prison overcrowding crisis intensified today when it emerged that inmates as young as 18 had been housed with sex offenders who may have 'groomed' them for abuse.

The chief inspector of prisons, Anne Owers, condemned the situation at HMP Holme House on Teesside as 'inherently unsafe' and called for the practice to cease immediately.

The men's jail, one of the largest in England and Wales with 1,000 inmates, held 39 young adults on remand when inspectors visited earlier this year.

Some of the 18 to 20-year-olds were housed in the vulnerable prisoner unit (VPU) alongside convicted rapists, child abusers and other sex offenders.

'Staff on the VPU alerted inspectors to a situation where they believed that a young prisoner was being groomed by an adult prisoner on the wing,' said the report.

'We do not believe that remanded young prisoners should ever be held in VPUs.

'The practice of holding young prisoners, particularly those who are vulnerable and may previously have been exposed to abuse, on adult prisoner units is inherently unsafe and should cease.'

The report added: 'Risk assessments should be conducted to ensure that they are protected from potential harm associated with their location with adults.'

The inspectors said antibullying strategies needed to be improved, especially as staff believed bullying was on the increase.

There were also five suicides in the jail last year 'but the lessons from them had not yet been assimilated by managers or put into practice by staff.'
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Aug 12, 2003
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