Rochester inmates 'spend too long in cells'

Rochester prison
Image caption Inspectors found prisoners locked in their cells and sleeping with their windows covered

Inmates at a Kent young offenders' institution (YOI) spend too much time in cells and are sometimes let out for only an hour a day, a report has said.

The report on Rochester YOI by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick followed an inspection in February.

Mr Hardwick said his overwhelming impression was of young men "sleeping their way through their sentences".

The Prison Service said it was working to improve purposeful activity and services for vulnerable prisoners.

Rochester YOI holds young men aged 18 to 21.

'Undemanding activities'

In his report, Mr Hardwick said: "When we went round the prison in the middle of a sunny day, the majority of prisoners were locked in their cells and most had draped something over their windows and were sleeping.

"These early impressions were born out by what we found on the inspection. In our spot check, we found 27% of prisoners locked in their cells even in the working part of the day."

He also found there were too few other opportunities for exercise, although there was good PE provision, and walking to activities was the most exercise some prisoners had.

He added: "The activities on offer were often undemanding; work was repetitive and mundane, such as lining soft fruit punnets with bubble wrap."

Violent incidents had increased from 16 a month in 2009 to 20 a month in 2010, he added.

He said: "The large area occupied by the prison and the challenging behaviour of some of the young men it held undoubtedly made it a difficult prison to run."

'Most feel safe'

Mr Hardwick said the levels of actual and potential violence in the prison needed to be tackled.

But he said while some prisoners tried to remain within sight of staff in order to be safe, and also guarded their cells to avoid theft, most prisoners felt safe. He also found drug use was low.

Michael Spurr, chief executive of the National Offender Management Service, which runs the Prison Service and Probation Service, said he was pleased inspectors found most inmates felt safe and there was low drug use.

He said: "The governor and staff are working hard to minimise violence and use of force, and improve purposeful activity and services for vulnerable prisoners.

"All these actions, combined with already effective resettlement, will reduce the likelihood of reoffending and thereby protect the public."

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