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18 Jun 2020

Howard League responds to reviews of pain-inducing restraint and separation of children in prison

The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to reviews of the use of pain-inducing restraint and separation in prisons holding children, both published today (Thursday 18 June).

Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “Today’s report by Charlie Taylor is a welcome start. It has been too long in coming, but it makes some sensible recommendations, which have been accepted by the government. There is more work to be done to reduce the use of physical restraint by prison officers on children and the Howard League will continue to campaign to protect children.

“The Separation Taskforce report is concerned with the separation of children in prison, which can mean anything from spending a short time away from others to being forced to sit in a cell the size of a parking space, without meaningful human contact, for 22 hours a day or more, for months on end. The latter is solitary confinement – a practice that is contrary to international law and which medics, professional bodies and child protection experts agree should not happen. Any report dealing with this issue should have as its first recommendation a prohibition on the use solitary confinement for children. It is deeply worrying that this report does not even deal with the urgent need to ban this practice.

“Another troubling aspect of the report is its formal recognition and acceptance of ‘self-isolation’. If a child in the community isolates themselves from everyone else, we would assume that they are desperate, unhappy or frightened and have a problem that needs to be solved. The fact that children in prison are viewed so differently only reinforces the failure that lies at the heart of the youth justice system.

“Children deserve every chance to build a brighter future. They should not be in prison. It is time to move beyond tinkering with failed policies that cause harm.”

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. Charlie Taylor’s independent review of the use of pain-inducing techniques in the youth secure estate, and the government’s response to his recommendations and findings, can be read online.
  3. The findings of the Separation Taskforce can be read online.
  4. A blogpost about the need for change to the use of force in prisons can be read on the Howard League website.


Rob Preece
Campaigns and Communications Manager
Mobile: +44 (0)7714 604955

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