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Prison staff praised for job well done

PUBLISHED: 14:36 01 August 2001 | UPDATED: 15:16 03 March 2010

PRISON officers looking after some of Britain's worst young criminals in a Suffolk jail have been praised for their work. Officers dealing with inmates who threaten to take their own life are also singled out for praise by the Board of Visitors in its annual report on the state of Hollesley Bay, near Woodbridge.

PRISON officers looking after some of Britain's worst young criminals in a Suffolk jail have been praised for their work.

Officers dealing with inmates who threaten to take their own life are also singled out for praise by the Board of Visitors in its annual report on the state of Hollesley Bay, near Woodbridge.

Last year the prison opened the Carlford Unit, a high security unit for long-term offenders aged 18 and under on a section 53 status. These are young people from all over the country who have committed such serious crimes that if they were an adult they would have received a sentence of 14 or more years.

The longest sentence an inmate is likely to serve in Carlford is six or seven years. The first of the youths arrived in February, 2000, into the unit which has a maximum of 28 places.

The discipline staff work with a probation officer, psychologist, youth workers and teachers to try to rehabilitate the offenders. Offenders attend classes covering the national curriculum and can take exams. Lessons on issues including anger management, drugs and alcohol are given to help them address the problems which led to their offending.

The unit for Section 53 criminals was set up in the disused hospital. The Board of Visitors has been critical of money wasted by the Prison Service – the hospital was never used except for one small part – but it has praised staff for dealing with the young criminals.

''After a slow and fairly problematic beginning this unit has become a centre of excellence in the treatment of section 53 youngsters by the Prison Service. Not all section 53s are suitable for Carlford, but for those who do get a place it represents a real chance to undo some of the harm that has made them what they are.

''It is an expensive and labour intensive option, but if it can prevent any repetition of the serious crimes they have committed it will be worth it.

''There is now a strong work ethic and the culture on the unit encourages cooperation and good manners. There is a purposeful and serious atmosphere in the classrooms,'' said the board's annual report.

Hollesley had five life-threatening suicide attempts in the year ending September 30. The report commends officers for their prompt actions in preventing tragedies and it says the self-harm awareness committee, comprising prison staff and Samaritans, has forged productive working relationships.

There is praise too for physical education staff who set a high standard in working with all ages of inmates, and the cooks who provide imaginative menus.

The kitchen was awarded a national Heartbeat Award. This highlighted the change of emphasis from traditional fatty food to low-fat dishes, special diets and healthy eating options.

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