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15 Nov 2016

Howard League responds to watchdog’s report on children in custody

The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons’ report, Children in Custody 2015-16: an analysis of 12 to 18-year-olds’ perceptions of their experience in secure training centres and young offender institutions, published today (Tuesday 15 November).

The annual report is based on survey responses given by children in young offender institutions (prisons) and secure training centres (STCs).

Inspectors found that only one prison was sufficiently safe and that, for far too many children in custody, violence, bullying and intimidation were a regular feature of life.

Forty-six per cent of boys in prisons said that they had, at some point, felt unsafe in their establishment – the highest proportion ever recorded by the inspectorate in its thematic survey.

Almost half of boys in prisons were BME – the highest proportion recorded by the watchdog since it began inspecting the secure estate in 2001. These children reported poorer experiences than other boys.

Boys who had been in care, were Muslim, reported a disability, or identified as being from a Gypsy, Romany or Traveller background continued to be disproportionately over-represented in prisons when compared with the population as a whole.

The report states that outcomes for children in STCs had also deteriorated, due in part to significant failings at Rainsbrook and Medway.

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “The Howard League runs the only legal advice service for children in custody and in the last three months we had calls for help from 330 young people.

“Our youngest caller was 15 and the youngest person we received a call about was 13. The children need help with cruel punishments like being held in solitary confinement for weeks on end, poor treatment and the prospect of being released destitute.

“It is shameful that the government spends millions on locking up children yet they are unsafe inside and lack support before and after custody. The prisons are a disgrace and should be closed.

“Part of the problem is that prisons are the end of a torrent and it is the courts that must look to their disproportionate use of custody for BME children.”

Notes to editors

  1. The Howard League for Penal Reform is the oldest penal reform charity in the world. It is a national charity working for less crime, safer communities and fewer people in prison.
  2. A copy of the report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from Tuesday 15 November.


Rob Preece
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