G4S youth jails: a story of revolving doors, dangerous restraints and death
时间：2019-11-16 责任编辑：印唔逸 来源：银河网投官网 点击：205 次
The Conservative government proposed the setting up of privately run secure training centres in 1993. It was a controversial idea, and remains so today. Can private companies ever be trusted to look after and rehabilitate such vulnerable children when their priority is to turn a profit? Labour was against the establishment of STCs while in opposition.
In March 1993 the then shadow home secretary, Tony Blair, said: “It is far preferable to isolate young offenders from their own peer group and not put them in the company of 40 or 50 other persistent young offenders. What we need is schools of responsibility, not colleges of crime.”
But when Labour came to power in 1997 it carried through the setting up of STCs, arguing it would be too expensive to cancel the project.
Medway was the first to open, in April 1998. The cost was controversial: at £125,000 a year for each “trainee”, it was five times as much as sending a child to Eton. The centre would hold a maximum of 40 children, aged between 12 and 14. By January 1999, the centre was already in crisis – there had been a riot, and a report from the Social Services Inspectorate concluded that children were subject to “excessive use of force”, including neck and wrist restraints.
The blueprint for STCs had been drawn up by the senior civil servant Malcolm Stevens, who then agreed to join the security company Group 4 Rebound Ltd as operations director a year before Medway opened under its control. It was such a sensitive appointment that it had to be referred to the Cabinet Office for approval: Whitehall guidelines restrict senior civil servants jumping from the public to the private sector through the “revolving door”.
When his appointment was announced, the Guardian reported:
“The job offer has caused raised eyebrows,” a Home Office source said yesterday. “His entire job in the Prison Service was to advise the Home Office and Department of Health about who should be placed in secure units. It is one thing to get information as a civil servant. It is another to use it for commercial advantage.”
Stevens went on to become director of children’s services at . On the business networking website LinkedIn, Stevens describes his “specialities” as “bid preparation, tenders, presentation, implementation, operational and contractual management of £500m+ PFI contracts”.
Today, Stevens says he doesn’t know what all the fuss about. “I have never understood whose eyebrows were raised! Most of my colleagues and ministers thought that my appointment was a good idea. This was because at the time there were so many revelations about malpractice in residential children’s homes run by local authorities, children’s charities and even by the government itself.
“I hold no regrets about joining Group 4. My intention was to ensure that Group 4’s STCs delivered the government’s 1993 commitment to parliament, namely, high standards of care, high standards of education, high standards of healthcare.”
Stevens is by no means the only one to have joined G4S after working for the government or vice versa. The politician John Reid became group consultant to G4S in 2008, a year after stepping down as home secretary. While the formerG4S head of care and justice David Banks now sits on the Youth Justice Board, which oversees the youth justice system in England and Wales.
Sir Martin Narey, the former director general of the prison service of England and Wales, went on to become an adviser for G4S. After last year’s by the prisons inspectorate, which found children had been subjected to degrading treatment and racist comments from staff, he produced his own favourable “independent” report commissioned by G4S. He was also appointed appointed non-executive board member at the Ministry of Justice in August 2015.
Narey insists there has never been anything inappropriate in his work for G4S. “I retired from the Home Office in 2005,” he said. “Despite many offers, I declined to take up any part-time advisory role with any body dealing with penal issues for more than five years. But yes, I have offered occasional consultancy advice to G4S over the past few years. I terminated that relationship in 2014 but agreed, exceptionally, to visit Rainsbrook after the critical Ofsted report and report my findings to G4S, the YJB and to [the justice secretary] Michael Gove.
“As I make clear in the opening of that report, G4S paid me for my work but I reported frankly and honestly. I stand by my conclusion that children were treated overwhelmingly well. And the YJB monitor and the children’s advocate from Barnardo’s were both of that view.”
Lin Hinnigan, the chief executive of the Youth Justice Board, has dismissed concerns from critics that its relationship with G4S is too cosy. “The YJB does not have an unduly close relationship with G4S and has not favoured it over any other company. The YJB has held G4S to account on a number of occasions to address performance issues. ”
Stevens recruited Paul Cook to run Rainsbrook along with John Parker in 1999 from St John’s, a children’s home in Northamptonshire. In 2003, Cook was made director of children’s services for G4S and Parker was promoted to director of Rainsbrook. A year later STCs became front-page news when a boy died after being physically restrained. By then Stevens had left G4S.
Fifteen-year-old Gareth Myatt, 1.47m tall (4ft 10in) and 40kg (90lb), was restrained after complaining he had wrongly been locked in his room as a punishment for failing to clean a sandwich toaster he said other children had used. He died of positional asphyxia at Rainsbrook STC in April 2004.
Myatt repeatedly told the officers he could not breathe while they had him bent over in a “double-seated embrace” – a restraint that was subsequently banned by the YJB. One of the three guards who restrained him, David Beadnall, was more than 1.83m tall and weighed at least 225kg. He was later promoted to health and safety manager at G4S.
At the 2007 inquest, Parker said that he had not read the Physical Control in Care manual, and wasn’t aware of the risks involved. It was also revealed that two years before Myatt’s death, David Tuck, the YJB’s monitor – said to be the “eyes and ears of the Home Office” – had raised concerns about the restraint techniques used by guards at the STCs, and at Rainsbrook in particular. In a letter written to managers in June 2002, Tuck warned of the dangers of young people vomiting while being restrained. More than a year later he wrote again, saying children were complaining their heads were being pushed down into their groins, doubling them up and cutting off air supplies.
Although accidental death was recorded at Myatt’s inquest, the coroner, Judge Richard Pollard, wrote to then justice secretary, Jack Straw, to highlight the failure of G4S’s management to act on reports of abuses. “Inadequacy in the monitoring of the use of Physical Control in Care at Rainsbrook by Rebound management caused or contributed to Gareth’s death,” Pollard wrote.
The , and the leaked letter by Prof John Pitts alleging staff and management abuses, suggests G4S could have learned vital, possibly life-saving lessons in 2003.
The in Medway suggest the secure training centre was still failing some children in 2010-11, and its behaviour was inadequately checked by the relevant monitoring bodies.
G4S has defended its record on restraints and reporting abusive staff. “In the period 2010-15, 166 allegations were referred from Medway STC to Medway children’s services – which would include, but is not limited to, allegations of unnecessary and inappropriate restraint,” a spokesman said. “These were all fully investigated and appropriate action taken. Disciplinary action was the result in 23 cases over the period. Inspection reports from the period also characterise a centre where relationships between staff and children are positive.”
The former Labour MP for Northamptonshire North Sally Keeble, who has campaigned against the closed culture and dangerous restraints in STCs for 12 years, told the Guardian she was appalled that the relevant authorities failed to engage adequately with Pitts’ allegations about Medway STC in 2003, but was not entirely surprised.
“This is all of a piece,” she said. “Everything points to a culture of violence that resulted in one young boy dead and many injured. And there were plenty of warnings – delivered in parliament, in print and in person. For over a decade there has been a complete failure at a political and administrative level to take action to stop the violence.
“This is a huge scandal that should have been dealt with and wasn’t. It’s absolutely at the door of the government, and a complete failure of management from top to bottom.”
- Additional reporting Neelam Taylor and James Dawson
- This article was amended on 29 February 2016. It originally stated that the Youth Justice Board decides which companies win the contracts to run STCs. In fact, it is the Ministry of Justice, which sponsors the YJB, that makes these decisions in accordance with government procurement regulations.