HC Deb 28 March 1946 vol 421 cc86-90W
98. Mr. Skinnard

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is now able to make a statement about the provision of additional accommodation for youths and girls sentenced to Borstal detention.

Mr. Ede:

Yes, Sir. A number of measures are being taken to meet the situation created by the steep rise in the Borstal population, and the programme on which I am now working will, I hope, both provide the requisite accommodation and also enable progress to be made in the methods of classification and training.

There have until recently been seven Borstal Institutions for the training of young men, in addition to certain wings of prisons which have been declared to be Borstal Institutions and have been set apart (a) for youths unfit on medical grounds for training in an ordinary institution, (b) for those who seriously misbehave in a training institution, and (c) for those whose licences have been revoked.

As a result of the steep rise during 1945 in the number of youths sentenced to Borstal training, this accommodation has for some time past been insufficient. The rise is still continuing—the number of young men in custody sentenced to Borstal detention has increased by 300 in the last four months—and as a result large numbers are detained for unduly long periods in ordinary prisons awaiting transfer to a Borstal Institution. It is entirely wrong that youths who have been sentenced to Borstal training should be kept waiting for their training for long periods and should have meanwhile to be detained in ordinary prisons.

It was apparent during the summer of 1945 that additional accommodation would be required, and the necessary steps were initiated as soon as possible after the termination of hostilities. But to select, acquire, adapt and staff a number of new establishments necessarily takes time, and it was because of the urgent necessity of finding some immediate remedy that I decided that as a temporary measure a part of Dartmoor Prison should be converted into a Borstal Institution. I pointed out, however, that the problem was not merely to find one additional Borstal Institution: it would be necessary to provide several such institutions. The steps that are being taken for this purpose are as follows:

A new Borstal Camp for 80 boys has been opened at Gringley Carrs in Nottinghamshire. In the course of next month a second Borstal Reception Centre to take up to 150 boys will be opened at Latch-mere House, Kingston. On the 1st July it will be possible to take over from the War 'Office the establishment at Northallerton which has been used during the war for purposes of military detention. This also will be used as a Borstal Reception Centre. Next month the establishment at Feltham, which was formerly used as a Borstal Institution, will again be made available for Borstal training for up to 300 boys. This step has been made possible by the reopening of Pentonville Prison and a redistribution of the prison population.

The Prison Commissioners have also selected, and hope to acquire in the next few months, premises which can be used as a minimum security prison for the greater part of the convicts of the Star Class now at Camp Hill Prison, thus freeing that establishment for use as a Borstal Institution for some 300 boys, as it as before the war. In addition, negotiations are in progress for the acquisition of three country houses, each of which will accommodate from 150 to 200 boys. The adaptation and staffing of these additional Institutions will take time, but it is contemplated that they will be brought into use during the next 12 to 18 months.

There were at the end of February nearly 3,000 young men in custody sentenced to Borstal detention. As a result of these arrangements, accommodation will be provided for a population of over 3,300 excluding the use of Dartmoor, the use of which as a Borstal Institution will cease when the before mentioned premises become available.

As regards girls, the only Institution used before the war for Borstal training was that at Aylesbury, where the normal population did not exceed 150. During the later years of the war the committals increased sharply, and by the end of 1945 the total population had reached 300, and there were some 230 girls at Aylesbury. It was essential to reduce the numbers if the training;at Aylesbury was to retain any value, and it was decided to send no more girls there till the population had fallen to about 150. Meanwhile, the girls awaiting vacancies were collected at Holloway and Durham, where the best facilities existed for such training as can be provided in a prison. The search for additional accommodation has not proved easy, but a country house at East Sutton Park in Kent, which will provide admirable facilities for the training of 50 girls, has been acquired and will, it is hoped, be ready for use within six months. Negotiations arc also in progress for the acqui- sition of another country house which will, when the necessary adaptations have been made, take 50 to 60 girls. Both these Institutions will be run on new and experimental lines, and will receive such girls as are suitable for training in the open conditions of a normal school. Whether any more Institutions of this type should be provided will depend on the proportion of Borstal girls which experience shows to be suitable for such methods of training; it must be borne in mind that girls are seldom sentenced to Borstal Detention unless their records are very bad and various other methods of treatment have been tried and proved unsuitable.

Pending the opening of the two new Borstals, some transitional arrangement must he made for the growing number of girls who have already spent some months in prison and for whom no Borstal accommodation can be provided for some time to come. One unit of 30 girls has been at Durham since November, in an entirely separate wing of the women's prison. Here so much success has been achieved, with the cooperation of the Durham County Education Authority, in providing a Borstal-like atmosphere and training for the girls, that I have felt justified as a temporary measure in declaring this wing to be a Borstal Institution, where the girls will complete their training. It is hoped to allow them, at a suitable stage of their training, considerable freedom outside the prison both for work, education and recreation.

To relieve the numbers at Holloway, it has been arranged to open a similar Borstal unit in the women's prison at Exeter, from which all convicted women will be removed. The local education authority has, with the consent of the Ministry of Education, kindly agreed to cooperate here on the lines of the very successful experiment at Durham.

During the transitional period, a wing of Holloway Prison will be used as a Reception Centre for Borstal girls, and careful arrangements will be made by observation of their behaviour and by a study of their previous histories to classify them appropriately before they are allocated to one or other of the Borstal Training Institutions. For this purpose a medical psychiatrist and a psychiatric social worker will be added to the staff. Later it is proposed to that the Reception Centre shall be at Aylesbury, in that part of the institution which will no longer be used as a Borstal Institution, so that the use of Holloway Prison for the reception of girls sentenced to Borstal training may be abandoned.