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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