In the past few weeks our legal team has been working hard to help children and young adults in prison. At a time when young people are being locked in their cells almost all day, we are working to get them safely released wherever possible.
Alongside our wider legal challenge to the government on the issue of early release of selected prisoners, our lawyers have had to continue fighting for individual young people in prison who are suitable for release to be let out of prison.
Aylesbury prison holds young adults, mainly teenagers, and it has been one of the worst prisons in the country for years. It was so awful that it was put into emergency special measures and half the young men were shipped out to other jails – many of which are only marginally better. Despite the extra help, a new inspection shows it is still desperately awful.
While the government is banging the ‘law-and-order’ drum, it is worth remembering that when people go into prison they also come out. The longer they are inside, the more institutionalised they become and the bigger the challenges they face on release.
Last year I wrote about the history of Feltham, showing how it has never been a safe place for children, never cared for challenging children well, and never helped them on the road to a good and useful life. The failure of Feltham prison with children is a national scandal. Now yet another report tells how the children are subjected to violent restraint by staff, while self-injury has increased, and often return to the community with little or no support.
Back in January, the Howard League launched a briefing paper based on more than a year of work with judges and young people. The publication, Sentencing Principles for Young Adults, sets out how the sentencing of young people, typically aged between 18 and 25, could be improved.
I am going to Geneva to give oral evidence to the Committee against Torture on how the UK government fails to uphold its obligations. The Howard League submitted written evidence to the committee to inform its questioning of the government on Tuesday.