Owers calls for more prison involvement

    The chief inspector of prisons, Anne Owers, has called on social
    services to engage with prisons in order to best meet the needs of
    incarcerated children.

    Speaking at a plenary session on youth justice, Owers raised
    concerns that area child protection committees were unaware of what
    was going on behind prison doors.

    She recalled a situation where a heavily pregnant “very damaged”
    girl was in prison and due to be released, yet the local ACPC had
    not been involved.

    Owers acknowledged that there were pressures on social services but
    pointed out that many of the children in prison “would have been
    looked-after children prior to imprisonment”.

    “We need the proper engagement of social services and prisons,” she
    told delegates. “There is often the assumption that once a child is
    in prison, the prison gates come down.”

    Owers described the “significant rise” in the number of children in
    prison since the beginning of the year as “very troubling
    indeed”.

    Journalist and social care researcher Yasmin Alibhai-Brown said
    that paying more attention to the needs of looked-after children
    aged between 13 and 16 would help reduce the child prison
    population by cutting the number that went on to offend.

    “At that time in their lives, as well as puberty, they are often
    dealing with lots of other things such as educational under
    achievement and feeling rejected by society. And that brings out a
    lot of feelings that are not taken up,” she said.

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