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Frances Crook's blog · 24 Jul 2020

Children’s rights in prison still exist during Covid

Frances Crook in front of office bookshelves

Since the lockdown began, most children in prison have been in conditions of severe isolation, without family visits, face to face visits or therapy.

Between 24 March and 18 June 2020, our lawyers received around 2,000 calls on our legal advice line from young people, as well as from their families and professionals working with them. What they told us about their experiences of custody during the pandemic was devastating. We have been raising awareness of these issues since the beginning of the lockdown, such as with our briefing on children in prison during the Covid-19 pandemic.

But we also wanted to ensure that the children affected knew that their rights hadn’t gone away, and felt able to ask for the things they have a right to.

Earlier this month we published a new leaflet for children in custody to reassure them that their rights have not disappeared during Covid-19.

The leaflet has been illustrated by a child in prison. It reminds children that they still have a right to education, contact with their family, and physical and mental healthcare. It stresses that they can still get support, and make complaints to the prison if they feel their rights are being ignored or they’re being treated differently to others. It reminds them that they are still able to apply to early release, bail or parole – hearings should still be happening, and their rights to support and accommodation on release are unchanged.

We are very pleased that the Youth Custody Service has supported the distribution of the leaflet so we can get it to children in prison. We have sent 1,000 copies of the leaflet to be distributed in prisons and copies have been printed and provided to children in secure training centres and secure children’s homes. Let’s hope that the leaflet will empower young people to understand and enforce their rights. In light of the current pandemic, this is more crucial than ever.

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