Campaign calls for a cut in the number of children in custody

    Bobby Cummines, chief
    executive of UNLOCK,
    the organisation for
    ex-offenders, pictured
    at the launch of
    Community Care‘s
    Back on Track campaign.
    He told the launch
    that he supported the
    magazine’s campaign
    because, as a former
    young offender himself,
    he believes that not
    enough is done to help
    young people from
    difficult backgrounds
    stay out of trouble.
    He also backs Community
    ‘s call for a
    dramatic reduction in
    the number of young
    people held in custody,
    describing Young Offender
    Institutions as
    “universities of crime”
    where young people become
    set on a life of offending.

    A youth justice campaign calling for a dramatic reduction in the
    number of children in prison has been launched by Community
    this week, writes Clare

    Community Care would like to see a greater use of community
    sentences to reduce the number of children being incarcerated by
    the state because prison further damages this vulnerable group of

    “Young offenders are not monsters and in many cases they are
    imprisoned for non-violent crimes such as burglary, theft and
    damage to property,” said Community Care editor Mark

    “There are statistics showing that an overwhelming majority
    of young people who offend have mental health problems or turn to
    crime because they are socially excluded or have gone through the
    trauma of a family breakdown,” he added.

    The campaign, called Back on Track, is supported by a number of
    high profile individuals and organisations in the field, including
    the Howard League for Penal Reform, Prison Reform Trust, Nacro and
    Unlock, the national association of ex-offenders.

    Speaking at the media launch, Bobby Cummines, the chief executive
    of Unlock, said: “We have a duty of care towards these young
    people. Prison should be a last resort, not a first resort.

    “These are misguided children and we need to look where we
    have failed them,” he added.

    Yvonne Scholes, whose son Joseph hanged himself in Stoke Heath
    Young Offender Institution in March 2002, is backing the campaign.
    “It is time to demand that our elected government abolishes
    the use of custody for all children,” she said.

    The campaign is also calling for:-

    • the treatment of children in custody to conform to the
    United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child
    • an improvement in the training of staff working in young
    offender institutions
    • an end to the humiliating practices such as routine
    strip-searching and the inappropriate use of control and

    To support Back on Track or for further information go to
    or email

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