Thursday, 4 June 2009

Colnbrook IRC Heavily Criticised

The Colnbrook high security detention centre near Heathrow run by SERCO has been heavily criticised by the Chief Inspector of Prisons Anne Owers in a new inspection report.

Anne Owers is quoted as saying, "Overall, we found little improvement at Colnbrook since our last visit. Indeed, there was evidence of the centre taking inappropriate steps to manage some of the challenges it faces; in particular, there were examples of separation being misused and the vulnerable persons unit was not fit for purpose.

"A significant number of complaints, including allegations of staff bullying, were not adequately investigated and replies lacked detail." And that "staff and managers readily admitted that Colnbrook was struggling to cope."

The full announced inspection took place last November and followed a similar critical report the previous year.

Amongst the criticisms were:
  • Between 80% and 90% of the immigration removal centre (IRC) population were former prisoners. More than a third in our survey reported spending more than four hours in an escort van. Vehicles often arrived late. There were a significant number of night-time journeys, and only 32% of respondents reported that they had been treated well by escort staff, against an Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) comparator of 50%.
  • Only 37% of survey respondents said that they had been well treated by reception staff, which compared poorly with the IRC comparator of 59%.
  • Only 30% of the detainees surveyed said that they felt safe on their first night.
  • Overall, there was a relatively poor standard of staff-detainee relationships and, whilst 52% of detainees saying that most staff treated them with respect, similar to the figure at the previous inspection, the figure was significantly lower than the IRC comparator of 70%.
  • 49% of detainees said that they had been victimised by another detainee or group of detainees, which was significantly worse than the 30% comparator and also significantly worse than the 40% figure reported at the previous inspection. Thirty-four per cent said that they had felt threatened or intimidated by a member of staff, which was significantly worse than the 23% comparator. In line with the centre’s internal survey, our survey indicated a reluctance to report bullying. Only 48% of detainees who said that they had been victimised by detainees or staff said that they had reported it. This was significantly worse than the 63% comparator in the previous survey.
  • Colnbrook's control and restraint (C&R) was heavily criticised for being oppressive: There was insufficient de-escalation of use of force incidents, and the monitoring of these incidents was inadequate. Kept too long in isolation after incident de-escalated. Complaints were inadequately investigated. The standard of replies was poor, many were not answered within the prescribed timescale and the standard of replies was insufficiently monitored.
  • Rule 40 (removal from association in the interests of security or safety) was regularly used as punishment. The Incentives and Earned Privileges (IEP) scheme used as system of punishment rather than as the system of reward as it was designed to be.
  • The unit for vulnerable detainees was an oppressive and degrading environment. It offered no privacy and was an oppressive and degrading environment. Arrangements for the support of potentially suicidal or self-harming detainees were inadequate, with poor documentation, and some inappropriate separation of vulnerable detainees. Use of force had increased and was not always well managed.
  • The Short term Holding Facility (STHF) had a restricted regime and detainees were locked up for 23 hours a day, with little access to information. Despite previous inspectorate recommendations, it continued to hold women in wholly inappropriate conditions, some of them extremely distressed, or co-located with male ex-prisoners.
  • Restraints used during all visits to outside medical or dental facilities irrespective of likelihood of flight posed by detainee.
  • There was relatively poor access to expert legal advice, with just over half of detainees surveyed indicating that they had a solicitor, which was significantly worse than the IRC comparator of 61%.
  • Bail applications were heard through the on-site video suite but UKBA summaries arrived by post - often late, only in English and limited ability to challenge court's assumptions.

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