Give children justice

    Whoever came up with the slogan “every child matters” probably did
    not have children at risk of offending uppermost in their minds.
    Certainly the way we treat young people in trouble with the law
    suggests they matter very little.

    The system seems to be becoming ever more punitive despite a
    complete lack of evidence that this is preventing reoffending
    -Êin fact the figures suggest quite the reverse.

    Community Care‘s Back on Track campaign, launched this
    week, aims to challenge a system that locks up more young people
    than any other country in Europe.

    One of our aims is a dramatic reduction in the number of children
    and young people held in custody -Êparticularly under the
    harsh regime of the UK’s young offender institutions.

    We believe that while these institutions are full to bursting point
    there is no scope for manoeuvre and no chance of securing
    improvements in conditions for those it is felt have to be locked
    up.

    Having said that, we are very uncomfortable about the whole idea of
    the prison service taking responsibility for vulnerable children.
    We believe local authority secure children’s homes (Laschs) are a
    much more secure and stable environment for troubled youngsters.

    So why does the government appear to be hell-bent on closing them?
    If they are going to cut beds why not cut them in prisons?

    Yvonne Scholes is convinced her 16-year-old son Joseph would not
    have killed himself if he had been in the care of a Lasch instead
    of in a young offender institution. We support her call for a
    public inquiry into the way her son was treated. Too many young
    people like Joseph seem to switch overnight in the eyes of the
    authorities from being a child in need who requires help to a child
    in trouble who must be punished. Our campaign aims to remind people
    of the fact that it is the same child.

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