The Howard League for Penal Reform has published this anonymous account taken from a 14-year-old female client of its legal team last month.
The league is asking anyone who knows of a potential case study like this one to contact it on firstname.lastname@example.org, email entitled RESTRAINT DOSSIER or to ring 020 7249 7373.
“I am 14. I am a girl. I have been in custody twice. I have been in 2 secure training centres and 2 local authority secure children’s homes. I have no idea how many times I have been restrained but is probably over one hundred times. On my first sentence I was in custody for 2 months. On my second sentence I was in custody for about four months. While in the secure training centres I got restrained between 3 times a day and 3 times a week. Restraint is horrible. The worst thing about restraint is how they throw your neck down into your chest and hold it there and it really hurts.
As a result of restraint I have had a broken front tooth, had fits (I have a heart problem where my heart beat can become irregular – vivascil something: it makes you faint), injury to my neck from my legs being pushed over my neck, blotches and bruises on my face. Most times it made me low inside; sometimes it made me cry and sometimes it made me feel like self harming – and sometimes I did actually self harm after restraint.
In the secure training centres the staff are younger and seem to be more keen to restrain as soon as possible. It felt like the same people turned up to restrain me most times and it felt like they liked doing it.
In the secure children’s homes it is really clear that the staff don’t like restraining: it happens much less often – so in my last local authority secure children’s home it happened about twice a week compared to every day or more at the secure training centre. Firstly, staff at the local authority homes don’t wind you up so much as in the secure training centres and they try to use other ways to calm you down.
I can understand why they sometimes have to do it – and sometimes it is to protect me from myself – but I feel like they do it too often.
The other thing is that if you have it too much, you get used to it – you learn how to get out of the restraint – you get more attention when you are restrained and everyone knows you. You get to know the staff more. When you are good, staff forget you. After a while, you can use it to get your anger out and sometimes you can miss it – even though it is horrible.
I am worried about going home where I will not get restrained and will not be sure how to get my anger out anymore.”
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