Children in prison could be routinely strip searched, have their
genitals inspected and left in cells for long periods under
proposed new rules, the Howard League for Penal Reform has warned,
writes Clare Jerrom.
The government was forced to re-write the Prison Service Order
to governors following the judicial review by the Howard League in
2002 which ruled that the Children Act should apply to children in
But Howard League director Frances Crook warned the PSO, due to
be enforced from September, had not been consulted on and failed to
protect children in prison.
In a letter to the government, Crook said the proposed rules
allowed for routine strip-searching of children, which includes
inspection of the genital area by adult staff, despite a
significant number of children in prison having been sexually
Children can also be physically restrained using a
pain-compliant method designed to control adults. Crook warned its
research showed “that children experienced physical abuse
when restrained, held in solitary confinement and forcibly
She also warned that while the previous order specified that
children should spend a minimum of 10 hours out of cell, six of
which should be purposeful, the new order was “vague”
and meant children could spend many more hours locked up.
A spokesperson for the Youth Justice Board said that as well as
the PSO, the standards for Young Offender Institutions holding
juveniles are governed by a Service Level Agreement between the YJB
and the Prison Service. The PSO sets out a broad approach to
standards while the SLA set specific commitments annually.
“We can confirm that the SLA for this year continues to
include targets for the education of young offenders and for
ensuring young people spend minimum amounts of time out of their
cells,” she added.
In relation to use of restraint, the Prison Service has put
plans in place for a trial of new juvenile restraint