Self-harm and violence rates in Young Offender Institutions

13 November 2018

Young offender

Figures published today by Cardiff University’s Wales Governance Centre reveal the true extent of self-harm and violence at Young Offender Institutions (YOIs) in England and Wales.

The previously unpublished figures, obtained from the Youth Justice Board via the Freedom of Information Act*, provide a unique insight into the experiences of children in young people units catering primarily for those aged 15-17.**

The findings, which were obtained as part of the Wales Governance Centre’s Justice and Jurisdiction project, reveal:

  • HMYOI Parc in Bridgend recorded the highest rate of self-harm incidents out of five comparable institutions in England and Wales. A total of 64 incidents took place in 2017. The average population of at HMYOI Parc’s children’s unit is 40.
  • HMYOI Parc’s children’s unit also had the highest rate of assaults where the victim was a young person, recording 113 incidents over the course of 2017. This number is equivalent to nearly three incidents for each inmate.
  • YOI Feltham had the highest rate of assaults where the victim was not a young person in 2017. These incidents, which may involve prison staff and visitors, stood at 131. The average population of Feltham’s children’s unit is 129.

Dr Robert Jones said: “The data presented here reveal the disturbing extent of self-harm and violence being experienced by children in custody.  These latest figures raise urgent questions over safety levels at Young Offender Institutions in England and Wales including HMYOI Parc, a children’s unit in Wales situated within one of the largest prisons in the UK.

The information we have obtained provides a unique insight into the safety and treatment of children in custody. We hope it will assist the Commission on Justice in Wales as it continues its examination of the Welsh justice system.

Dr Robert Jones

Andrew Neilson, Director of Campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said:  “These figures illustrate in graphic detail why prison is no place for a child. We are failing children at a crucial juncture in their lives if we lock them up and expose them to such high levels of violence, making it more and not less likely that these young people will go on to commit further crimes on release.”

* Using the Freedom of Information Act, Young Offender Institutions in England and Wales were asked the following questions about their units which cater for young people aged 15-17:

How many of the following incidents were recorded at the (i) Cookham Wood; (ii) Feltham A; (iii) Parc (iv) Werrington; (v) Wetherby; (vi) Keppel Unit in 2017.

i) self-harm incidents
ii) prisoner-on-prisoner assaults
iii) assaults on staff

** The data refers to incidents in units catering for the youngest offenders in YOIs – primarily aged 15-17. These data will include some 18 year olds who remain in the under-18 secure estate.

  • The comparison does not include the Keppel Unit at HMYOI Wetherby. The Keppel Unit is a High Dependency/Enhanced Support Unit, and operates to provide more developed support for some of the most challenging and vulnerable young people in custody. Figures for the Keppel Unit are included in the tables below for information.

Population and number of incidents

Cookham WoodFelthamParcWerringtonWetherbyKeppel
Unit
Population (average)144129409818436
Number of self-harm incidents623564100146195
Number of victims of proven assault where the victim was a young person10920711320915833
Number of victims of proven assault where the victim was NOT a young person413140829415

Number of incidents 'per 100' for comparative purposes

Cookham WoodFelthamParcWerringtonWetherbyKeppel
Unit
Population (average)144129409818436
Self-harm rate per 10043.127.116010279.3542
Number of victims of proven assault where the victim was a young person per 10075.7160.5282.5213.385.992
Number of victims of proven assault where the victim was NOT a young person per 1002.8101.610083.751.142
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