Debate on preventing suicides in custody

We asked:- What more could be done to prevent suicides
in custody and better support the families of children who die
while in detention?

These are some of the comments we received:-

“Children should not be in prison in the first place. I am a
social worker and an advocate for young people and would like to
highlight the plight of many vulnerable looked after children who
end up in prison.

These children display emotional difficulties and may have suffered
early broken attachments, many losses, abuse and rejection. They
then have their emotional and mental health needs completely
ignored. The majority of children in prison are vulnerable prior to
entering prison and by placing them into such an oppressive system
exasperates their difficulties and powerlessness.

Is it any wonder there are so many suicides?”

Barbara Slack
Social Worker

“Children that are held in detention centres are usually
the victims of social pressure of peer groups and so called
“friends”. Many are very smart and clever young kids who simply get
involved in the wrong crowd, and are too afraid to walk away from
them. This is not
because they are afraid of getting beaten up, as some kids get into
fights regularly as part of group/gang activities, but more so
because they’re afraid of being alone.

These kids need guidance, they need to be shown that they are
individuals who are important regardless of who they are friends
with or even if they have no friends, and the emphasis needs to be
on learning to be comfortable with yourself, in your own company,
to teach them that they need to discover who they are and not look
to change themselves to fit into the group.

Detention centres often take this rule on board, but take it to
an extreme by cutting off all supply and offering nothing to make
up for the sudden loss, which causes a shock to their mental
system, causes confusion and thus results in (the most extreme
cases) suicides.

As a possible solution, all security guards or officers, that
have any contact with them whatsoever should be trained in IAG
(information, advice and guidance). Even the officer who opens and
shuts the gates needs to have this type of training. This
cause innovative ideas to develop as guards understand the needs of
people who require guidance. Too much is put on the shoulders of
“experts” who visit these places for a day or two and decide what
needs to be done. I say, get the day-to-day guys involved.”

Atif Khan
Employability Liaison Officer
East London Advanced Technology Training

“I was appalled by this story because it seemed to take the side
of young offender and nothing was mentioned about what these people
did to get themselves into the institutions in the first place.  If
you commit a crime you’ve got to face the consequences.
Don’t blame the law for getting caught.

What about the person the £50 was taken from or the person
whose car was taken? There was no mention of these people. There is
no such thing as an innocent youth ending up in a young offender

Our neighbourhood has been plagued by a group of youths over the
last 12 months and two of them are now facing a custodial sentence.
Their parents have been given plenty of chances to sort them out,
but their parents are quite hopeless cases themselves.

If parents can’t be bothered to look after their kids and
take responsibility for their actions, then the law is welcome to
do whatever they see fit.”

Maaike Lorijn


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