CONSIDERABLE improvements have been made to the standard of accommodation at a North-East young offenders' institution, according to an independent report.

There have also been “notable and positive changes” in the way inmates at Deerbolt YOI, at Startforth, near Barnard Castle, are educated and trained while serving their sentences.

The annual report of the prison's independent monitoring board, which covers the 12 months to September 2013, also notes that any fears for the future had been allayed as Deerbolt had been operating at almost full capacity after a period of low occupancy.

The institution can house a maximum of 513 young offenders aged 18-21 on nine wings.

David Yeadon, chairman of the monitoring board, said governor Gabrielle Lee and her staff should be commended for leading the prison through changing and challenging times.

“The year has seen continued and considerable improvements and repairs to the fabric and appearance of the establishment.”

Mr Yeadon said the board was particularly pleased with improvements in the shower facilities.

“The showers have been a major problem for several years and the cause of a high number of incidents,” he noted.

Individual shower rooms have been installed on C Wing, replacing a single open cubicle.

On education and training, Mr Yeadon said the development of individual learning plans (ILPs) for inmates have proved a success.

Following the closure of Northallerton Prison, 18 staff, the majority prison officers, transferred to Deerbolt, easing a strain on staffing. In total, the prison directly employs 315 staff.