An estimated 1,800 men reported being physically or sexually abused in prison in the 1970s and 1980s.
Durham Police do not believe this was systematic abuse, but rather that individual employees – five were convicted in 2019 – acted opportunistically. However, it appears that there was a culture of violence and fear at the center.
The 1970s and 1980s were a long time ago now and society had different standards. A slap might have been acceptable, but it is clear that the behavior at Medomsley went beyond that and was brutal and degrading.
After years of campaigning, the Lord Chancellor has finally accepted the need for an independent investigation into what happened. This investigation is welcome not only so that the stories of the men whose lives were blighted by their experiences at the center are heard and validated.
It is also necessary to find out how much people outside the center turned a blind eye to what was going on inside and to find out how leaders enabled this culture to develop at the center. Institutions that care for young men convicted of crimes may be difficult places, but part of their job, like punishment, is to return the people in their care to society as better, even reformed, people.
Medomsley returned many of the people in his care to society as abused and broken people. We need to understand why things got so bad if these institutions want to play a positive role in society in the future.