Unknown extent of suicide risk in cells

The Home Office does not know how many of the children it places in
special cells or segregation are deemed to be at risk of suicide,
officials have admitted.

Responding to a parliamentary question, prisons minister Paul
Goggins said the government had no idea how many children under
suicide watch were placed on the segregation unit or in special
cells in young offenders institutions.

It emerged in January that special cells, which have no furniture
or toilet facilities and are where young people are placed to “calm
down”, were used 154 times in 2003 in 13 juvenile establishments,
despite assurances from the Home Office that they existed only in
Stoke Heath young offenders institution in Shropshire (news, 15
January, page 6).

The Howard League for Penal Reform fears the cells are used for
children with mental health problems, which would exacerbate those
problems “and damage these young people further”.

The charity has also been contacted by children claiming to have
been held in the conditions for “several days”.

In this latest revelation, Goggins told the House of Commons: “This
information is not held centrally and could not be obtained without
disproportionate cost.”

Howard League director Frances Crook said the admission was

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