The chief inspector of prisons warned yesterday that a "depressingly high" number of young people felt unsafe in custody, despite a drop in the number of those taken in.
The number of young people in custody fell by 14 per cent last year and now stands at 1,543, according to a report jointly published with the Youth Justice Board.
Chief inspector Nick Hardwick said that despite a drop in numbers the lack of change was "striking."
However it found that the numbers of young Muslim men in custody had risen by from 16 per cent to 21 per cent.
Almost a third of those surveyed said they had previously been looked after by a local authority.
Mr Hardwick said the figure was "depressingly high" and "reflected the over-representation of children from care in almost every indicator of disadvantage for decades."
He also expressed concern that the proportion of young people who had felt unsafe at some time in custody had risen from 27 per cent to 32 per cent.
A quarter of young men said they had been victimised by another inmate while 23 per cent said they had been victimised by a member of staff.
Mr Hardwick said it might have been expected that a reduction in the number of young people held would have led to chances in young people's perceptions of custody.
"It is striking how little has changed and that may cast doubt on the assumption that as the population decreased it would include a greater concentration of young people with a serious offence background and major problems."
Prison Reform Trust director Juliet Lyon said: "Herding together high numbers of challenging and often vulnerable young men into large, bleak, understaffed institutions inevitably leads to violence, gang-related activity and self-harm."
She called on the government to focus on providing smaller closer-to-home institutions with qualified staff.
"Fewer young people in custody means fewer blighted lives and less reoffending," she added.
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