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Violence at Feltham prison drops after sweet rewards

Young offender Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Feltham A manages young people on remand and those who have been sentenced by the courts

Levels of violence at a young offenders institution dropped after teenagers were given sweets for good behaviour, inspectors found.

Inmates at YOI Feltham, in west London, can select confectionery items from a "merit shop", inspectors found.

They said the new "behaviour management philosophy", focusing on incentives rather than punishment, had helped to reduce violence.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said the results were "encouraging".

A report by the prison inspectorate said boys who behave well are given "immediate rewards" under the new regime, and were also allowed to eat some meals together.

Previously they ate alone in their cells.

Commenting on the recent findings, Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, said: "Last year we reported how the focus had been on sanctions and regime restrictions, there was a cycle of violence and punitive responses, with no obvious strategy in place to break it.

"This had changed, and we found a new focus on rewards and incentives for good behaviour."

'Makes a difference'

Inspectors noted, however, that a large number of children at Feltham did not always receive the support to which they were entitled from local authorities, in particular in ensuring suitable accommodation on release had been secured.

The report also urged the prison to tackle a problem with some boys getting into debt through gambling.

Penal reform charity Howard League said "damning inspection reports on Feltham for decades have proven that you cannot punish children into good behaviour."

"When staff are kind to the children and being positive with them, it at least makes some difference", Frances Crook, the charity's chief executive said.

"I am worried, however, that sweets are being used to supplement the boys' diet because they are not given enough food."

Image caption During the last six months there has been 161 violent incidents, which was lower than the 200 recorded the pervious year

An earlier report found boys were kept in their cells for "too long" and sanctioned for "petty" misdemeanours.

Feltham A holds 140 boys aged 16-17.

Dr Phillip Lee, of the MoJ, said: "It's encouraging to see the progress Feltham has made under very challenging circumstances and I am determined to see similar improvements across the youth estate."

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In 2017, inspectors said the "punitive" regime at Feltham had contributed to a cycle of violence.

It also found the prison was "not safe for either staff or boys" after finding levels of "very serious" violence had risen.

However, the latest report said there had been a "dramatic" improvement in safety, with assaults on staff down by 80%.

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