New Prison Service Order will not protect children

    Children in prison could be routinely strip searched, have their
    genitals inspected and left in cells for long periods under
    proposed new rules, the Howard League for Penal Reform has warned,
    writes Clare Jerrom.

    The government was forced to re-write the Prison Service Order
    to governors following the judicial review by the Howard League in
    2002 which ruled that the Children Act should apply to children in
    prison.

    But Howard League director Frances Crook warned the PSO, due to
    be enforced from September, had not been consulted on and failed to
    protect children in prison.

    In a letter to the government, Crook said the proposed rules
    allowed for routine strip-searching of children, which includes
    inspection of the genital area by adult staff, despite a
    significant number of children in prison having been sexually
    abused.

    Children can also be physically restrained using a
    pain-compliant method designed to control adults. Crook warned its
    research showed “that children experienced physical abuse
    when restrained, held in solitary confinement and forcibly
    stripped”.

    She also warned that while the previous order specified that
    children should spend a minimum of 10 hours out of cell, six of
    which should be purposeful, the new order was “vague”
    and meant children could spend many more hours locked up.

    A spokesperson for the Youth Justice Board said that as well as
    the PSO, the standards for Young Offender Institutions holding
    juveniles are governed by a Service Level Agreement between the YJB
    and the Prison Service. The PSO sets out a broad approach to
    standards while the SLA set specific commitments annually.

    “We can confirm that the SLA for this year continues to
    include targets for the education of young offenders and for
    ensuring young people spend minimum amounts of time out of their
    cells,” she added.

    In relation to use of restraint, the Prison Service has put
    plans in place for a trial of new juvenile restraint
    techniques.

     

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