All children at a secure centre run by a private US-owned prison contractor are to be removed amid fears over their safety, Robert Buckland has announced.
The Justice Secretary took action on Wednesday to take the 33 children aged 12 to 17 away from Rainsbrook secure training centre in Northamptonshire amid concerns that MTC, the contractor, was unable to make the necessary improvements to safeguard the children.
It follows complaints by MPs and inspectors that children held at a private detention centre were locked in their cells for 23 and a half hours a day.
One boy was only allowed out of his room for a total of just four hours over a fortnight - equivalent to little more than a quarter of an hour a day - as children faced conditions akin to solitary confinement, said the MPs on the Commons justice committee.
Children at the centre which is privately run by a US contractor received little encouragement to get up in the mornings and some spent much of the day in their pyjamas with little education.
Senior managers and Ministry of Justice (MoJ) monitors at the Rainsbrook secure training centre in Northamptonshire were unaware of the conditions, despite having offices just two minutes' walk from the cells, said the MPs.
Mr Buckland will now consider bringing Rainsbrook back under state control and could even repurpose the site for alternative use.
Ministry of Justice (MoJ) officials said that despite the company addressing the concerns about children’s time out of their rooms, the Government did not believe that the action taken by the provider over the last six months had done enough to resolve wider long-standing issues.
“Six months ago, I demanded that MTC take immediate action to fix the very serious failings at Rainsbrook. They have failed to deliver and I have been left with no choice but to ask that all children are moved elsewhere as soon as possible,” said Mr Buckland.
“This move will help protect the public by ensuring often vulnerable children get the support they need to turn their lives around – ultimately resulting in fewer victims and safer streets.”
All young people at Rainsbrook will be placed in safe and secure centres across the MoJ estate.