‘Child custody breaches human rights’

The use of custody for children must be stopped as a matter of
urgency, according to the Children’s Rights Alliance.

In a report on young offender institutions published this week, the
charity argues that custody for children is not working, is
expensive and is creating more crime and damage by the day as well
as breaching a number of human rights.

The charity – an alliance of over 180 organisations – is calling
for the establishment of a rights-based system and a complete
overhaul of the juvenile secure estate.

It recommends that children should only be locked up to protect
others from serious harm and that resources spent on imprisonment
should be diverted to alternatives to custody, such as non-punitive
training in residential placements away from home.

“Children in custody have killed themselves or have suffered gross
neglect, risk of death and injury, and outright abuse at the hands
of the state,” the report says.

It questions why there have been no high profile legal challenges
to the treatment of these children. By comparison, while children
in residential care and in boarding schools have also been victims
of ill treatment there have been public scandals in the care and
education systems where perpetrators have been punished, children
compensated, and safeguards tightened.

Children in care also have access to independent advocacy whereas
children in prison do not, it adds, pointing out that the Prisons
Inspectorate is “much too under-resourced to provide a proper
safeguard against human rights abuses”.

The report notes “with alarm” that the remit of the proposed
development of Children’s Trusts omits young offenders, warning
that youth offending teams will not survive alongside these

Meanwhile, the Howard League for Penal Reform is due to go to the
High Court this week to argue that the Children Act 1989 should
apply to children in prison.

– Rethinking Child Imprisonment from 020 7278 8222.

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