Calls for end to harsh practices fail to impress Youth Justice Board

The Youth Justice Board has rejected key recommendations of an inquiry that said children in custody were regularly subject to “demeaning and dehumanising” treatment.

The inquiry, by Lord Carlile QC and the Howard League for Penal Reform, called for an end to the use of strip searching and segregation in youth custody..

It also found children were subjected to treatment that would result in child protection investigations in any other setting and made 45 recommendations.

But in a response published last week, the Youth Justice Board rejected recommendations to end the use of prison segregation cells and strip searching, although it said it would “reconsider” whether full searches were necessary in some settings.

The board said use of segregation cells was “sometimes necessary” but it aimed to improve arrangements.

It said a recommendation to develop one certified physical intervention technique for children across the secure estate was “not feasible” because of variations in establishments.

The board also rejected the inquiry’s claim that restraint could be used to punish children.

Recommendations for the board to oversee a disciplinary system that would be “rigorously applied” when allegations were made against members of staff and for consistent staff-to-children ratios were also rejected.

Lord Carlile is considering the board’s response and will publish a reply in due course.
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Howard League director Frances Crook (pictured right) said the board’s “lack of power to enforce change” meant negative practices would continue.

“The board relies on proffering exhortations to the prisons, secure training centres and local authority units holding nearly 3,000 children,” she said, “but these institutions can simply put two fingers up in response and carry on with practices that at best are counter-productive and at worst are child abuse.”

Meanwhile, the Howard League is optimistic that the government may agree to a public inquiry into the treatment of a teenage girl in prison.

Crook said an inquiry would be particularly significant because it could hear from the girl, known as SP, who repeatedly attempted suicide after being sent to an adult women’s prison on her 17th birthday. She is now at a mental health unit. But a Home Office spokesperson said no decision had yet been made.

  • Carlile Inquiry report
  • YJB response 

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