Chief inspector of prisons urges closer working

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Anne Owers has called on social services to engage with prisons
in order to best meet the needs of incarcerated children,
writes Clare Jerrom.

Speaking at a plenary session on youth justice at Community Care
LIVE this week, the chief inspector of prisons raised concerns that
area child protection committees were sometimes unaware of what was
going on behind prison doors.

She recalled a situation where a heavily pregnant “very
damaged” girl was in prison and due to be released, yet the
local ACPC had not been involved.

Owers acknowledged that there were pressures on social services
but pointed out that many of the children in prison “would
have been looked after children prior to imprisonment”.

“We need the proper engagement of social services and
prisons,” she told delegates. “There is often the
assumption that once a child is in prison, the prison gates come
down.”

Owers described the “significant rise” in the number
of children in prison since the beginning of the year as
“very troubling indeed”.

She also repeated concerns about the use of strip searching and
the use of force, particularly given that young people in prison
had often experienced sexual abuse.

The use of special cells in young offenders’ institutions
and the treatment of children in prison generally should be subject
to new Prison Service standards, Owers added.

She concluded that there needed to be an “entirely
different approach” to children in the penal system,
highlighting the need for smaller units and for more mental health
and substance misuse services for children in the community.

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