Children’s Rights ‘Breached’ by Young Offenders Institutions

    Two young offenders institutions are failing to provide the
    quality of care for children laid out in the United Nations
    Convention on the Rights of The Child, according to research by
    penal reform charity The Howard League.

    The research, based on conditions for 15 to 17 year olds at
    Lancaster Farms, Lancaster, and Castington, Northumberland, reveals
    a lack of specialist training for staff, units that are too large
    to provide individual care, limited access to daylight and open
    air, and difficulty controlling bullying.

    But a spokeswoman for the Youth Justice Board, which is
    responsible for monitoring the institutions, denied there were any
    problems. “We refute the points made,” she said. “For example, the
    boys do not have limited access to open air. They play outdoor
    sports on a daily basis.”

    She said figures on the number of assaults had also been greatly
    exaggerated.

    The Howard League acknowledges that recent changes to the youth
    justice system, including the introduction of the Youth Justice
    Board and the imposition of standards, have improved access to
    activities for children.

    But spokesperson Charlotte Day said the fundamental character of
    prison remained unchanged. “Prisons are institutions designed for
    security rather than care and the Howard League is concerned that
    they still fail to meet the needs of children,” she said.

    The Howard League now plans to carry out similar research into
    every young offenders institution. “We expect to find that issues
    such as lack of training, the size of units and the lack of
    preparation for release will be common to all young offenders
    institutions,” said Day.

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