Children in custody are regularly subjected to “demeaning and dehumanising” strip-searching, physical restraint and long periods of isolation, an independent inquiry has found.
The inquiry, by Liberal Democrat peer Lord Carlile QC and published by the Howard League for Penal Reform, calls for independent scrutiny of restraint incidents and an end to the use of prison segregation units for children.
It also calls for a ban on handcuffing young offenders following evidence that this was being used “inappropriately” to restrain inmates in secure training centres.
The inquiry found that handcuffs were used on children 29 times in Hassockfield Secure Training Centre from April to September 2005, and 17 times in Oakhill STC during the same period.
The inquiry, established following the death of young offender Gareth Myatt, after he was restrained by officers at Rainsbrook STC, suggests handcuffs were being used after the banning of the “double seated embrace” restraint used on Gareth.
According to figures given to the inquiry by the Youth Justice Board, restraint was used 7,020 times on young people in secure training centres between January 2004 and August 2005.
It was used 5,133 times on juveniles in young offender institutions between January 2004 and September 2005, and 3,359 times in eight secure children’s homes between January 2004 and October 2005.
In one case submitted to the inquiry, it was alleged that staff would “bait” children into situations resulting in restraints for their own gratification.
• Watch out for a special report on the inquiry later today.