Long-term rise in prison custody for young people breaks past pledges

The number of 15 and 16-year- olds being
remanded into prison custody during the past nine years has tripled
despite a past government commitment to end the practice.

For the first six months of 2001, 1,284 young
people were remanded into custody with 24 per cent coming from
ethnic minority backgrounds, the latest government figures show.
One-third of those remanded were 15 and the remainder 16.

The National Association of Probation Officers
(Napo) has pointed out that in the six months from April 1992,
following implementation of the Criminal Justice Act, only 440
young people aged 15 and 16 were remanded into custody.

In 1991, the Conservative government agreed it
would reduce and ultimately abolish prison custody for 15 and
16-year-olds. Provision was made in the Criminal Justice Act 1991
for prison custody to be replaced with local authority secure

Under the act only those charged with a
violent or sexual offence or who had a record of absconding from
local authority accommodation were to be placed in prison

Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of
Napo, said: “It is extraordinary that 10 years have now elapsed
since the promise was made to stop remanding juvenile boys into
prison custody.

“Each year has seen an increase in the numbers
remanded. The conditions, as Prison Inspectorate reports have
shown, are often appalling. Ending the practice must be made a

A spokesperson for the Youth Justice Board
said: “We are open minded about who provides secure custodial
accommodation, whether it be the private sector, local authorities
or the prison service. But what we have said is that it is better
to hold people in small units without adults rather than larger
units with adults.”

The latest government figures were given in
the House of Commons by Home Office minister Beverley Hughes in
answer to parliamentary questions by Liberal Democrat MP Simon

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