Plans to increase Cookham Wood in Rochester criticised

Young person in prison (generic)
Image caption With the new buildings the prison will be able to accommodate up to 77 more young offenders

Prison reformers have criticised plans to increase the capacity of a young offenders institute in Rochester.

The Youth Offending Board says there is a shortage of places in London and the South East.

It plans to build new accommodation and education blocks at Cookham Wood, taking its capacity from 131 to 208.

Andrew Neilson from the Howard League said the centre had major problems and it should be managing those rather than creating the capacity for more issues.

'Widespread bullying'

He said: "A 15 year-old took his own life in the prison.

"There are a succession of inspection reports which have said that this is a prison with which has had major problems.

"There are reports of widespread bullying, physical assault and we don't think it's appropriate to be expanding a prison which has these kind of problems."

Proposals for the expansion of Cookham Wood form part of a document published by the Youth Justice Board which outlines its plans until 2015.

Frances Done, chair of the Youth Justice Board, said that much work was being done in Cookham Wood to stop young people re-offending.

She said: "What we want to do is make sure that they have a really rigorous regime, that there is a very strong programme of education and training and that they get the chance to work through their offending behaviour.

"Getting them to think about what they are going to do when they go out and support them in being resettled - so back into school back into a job or training apprenticeship.

"It's about trying to give them the opportunity to see that there is another life that is worth living which does not involve crime.

"That way you help them but also you reduce the amount of crime in local communities which is obviously what we are all trying to achieve."

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