Seven staff members at a Kent young offenders centre have been suspended after filmed evidence of abuse was presented by the BBC.
The staff were working at the Medway Secure Training Centre in Rochester, managed by security firm G4S.
The allegations – uncovered by Panorama – involve unnecessary force, foul language and a cover-up.
G4S has written to the BBC to try to stop broadcast of the footage, arguing filming was unauthorised and illegal.
However, Paul Cook of G4S said he was “shocked and appalled” and was supporting a police investigation.
The claims relate to 10 boys aged 14 to 17.
The centre holds 56 children, mainly boys, aged 12 to 17. It is not allowed to take any more while the investigation takes place.
Mr Cook, managing director of G4S children’s services, told BBC Radio Kent he was informed of the allegations on 30 December and referred them that day to the Medway Child Protection team and the police.
He said the BBC had referred to “staff hurting and inappropriately restraining young people, using foul and abusive language and failing to report… their actions”.
Among the allegations uncovered by Panorama and now subject to investigation are that Medway staff:
- Slapped a teenager several times in the head
- Pressed heavily on the necks of young people
- Used restraint techniques unnecessarily – and that included squeezing a teenager’s windpipe so he had problems breathing
- Used foul language to frighten and intimidate – and boasted of mistreating young people, including using a fork to stab one on the leg and making another cry uncontrollably
- Tried to conceal their behaviour by ensuring they were beneath CCTV cameras or in areas not covered by them
Mr Cook said the seven members of staff named in a Panorama document sent to him were immediately suspended.
Safeguarding had also been stepped up at the centre while the investigation takes place, he added.
The Howard League, which campaigns for penal reform, tweeted the allegations were “extremely concerning”, adding it had legal clients at the centre.
Tweeting in a personal capacity, its CEO Frances Crook said she was pleased Panorama had investigated abuse in G4S homes.
She added: “The Howard League has represented children who’ve had serious injuries in G4S secure children’s homes. It demands public concern.”