The Plastic Hippo

July 19, 2010


Filed under: Education,Law,Politics,Rights,Walsall — theplastichippo @ 12:22 am

Nomenclature can be a very useful tool for those intent on obscuring the truth. In a world where removing something vital is an “efficiency”, when failure is described as “deferred success” and deliberate corruption is dismissed as “an error”, language acts as a carpet which can be used to sweep the unpalatable under. Add to this lexicon of deception the euphemism “distraction techniques”. This describes the systemic, organised and brutal child abuse in secure training centres perpetrated on behalf of the state in our name.

It has taken two deaths, five years and the Freedom of Information Act for the Youth Justice Board to reluctantly allow their “Physical Control in Care” manual to see the light of day. The YJB fought long and hard to keep this set of instructions a secret and still asserts Crown copyright over the document which means that the dissemination of its content to the general public is potentially a criminal offence. However, the Children`s Rights Alliance for England who secured access to the manual and some newspapers, notably The Observer, have published extracts. They make very grim reading.

Children between 12 and 17 who have been remanded in custody or have received a custodial sentence are sent to one of four Secure Training Centres in the UK. This is where the doublespeak begins as STC`s are basically prisons for children run by private companies under government contracts.

Oakhill in Milton Keynes is run by Rebound Children`s Services which is part of G4S Care and Justice Services Limited and can detain up to 80 children. Ofsted judged the place to be “outstanding” after their last inspection in June.

Rainsbrook in Rugby, Northamptonshire, also run by Rebound, can house up to 87 inmates. Ofsted also considered this facility as being “outstanding” after the inspection in April.

Medway in Rochester, Kent, Rebound again, can hold up to 76 children. Ofsted thought this place was “good” in February.

The fourth children`s prison, Hassockfield in Consett, County Durham is run by Serco and can hold up to 58 children. “Satisfactory” was the verdict from Ofsted in May.

Very little is known about Rebound Children`s Services other than the fact that they are another name for G4S who are currently knocking lumps out of asylum seekers in Immigration Removal Centres. The only way to contact Rebound is through a press officer located in the sleepy Worcestershire village of Broadway. We know more about Serco, of course, and not just because it is also knocking lumps out of asylum seekers in Immigration Removal Centres, closing schools in Walsall and making a fat profit out of the recession, but because Serco are now empowered to conduct Ofsted inspections. Clever…huh?

Ofsted inspectors are required to make certain that relevant documentation and policies are in place to protect the health, safety and well-being of children in whatever institution they inspect. Having awarded overall quality ratings of “satisfactory” to “outstanding” for the four prisons, it is unlikely that the inspectors saw, or asked to see, the Physical Control in Care manual.

The document contains chilling and detailed instructions on how to inflict deliberate violence, pain and humiliation on children. In a prose style worthy of the third reich, an inmate becomes a “trainee”, a fist becomes “extended knuckles” and the prison guards who dish out the violence are known as “carers”. More worryingly, the precise instructions on how to cause pain to already vulnerable and dysfunctional children is called “self-defence” and punching a non-compliant child repeatedly in face is known as a “distraction technique”.

In 2004, Gareth Myatt had just started a six-month sentence at Rainsbrook. He died after being restrained by three members of staff who, as the inquest heard, had given themselves the nicknames Crusher, Mauler and Breaker. Gareth Myatt was 15 and stood four feet, 11 inches tall. He choked on his own vomit and died because he refused to clean a sandwich toaster.

In the same year, Adam Rickwood, aged 14, hung himself at the Hassockfield prison after being the victim of a series of unlawful restraint attacks. Satisfactory?..good?..outstanding?

What makes the Physical Control in Care manual so insidious is that it does not confine itself to the basic process of an assault against a child. It then gives advice about when to stop the violence; not to protect the victim, but to protect the perpetrator.

In more genteel times, a nation was judged by the way it treated its domesticated animals. The thugs employed by G4S and Serco who are are obliged to undertake five days of training before they are allowed to abuse children, are well fed and watered and given lots of exercise.


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