Child prison population reaches crisis point

writes Simeon Brody

The head of the Youth Justice Board warned of “meltdown” in the youth custody system this week as the number of children in the secure estate reached a record high.

YJB chair Rod Morgan said “urgent action” was needed as the number of children and young people in custody rose to 3,350 in England and Wales. The figure tops the previous peak of 3,175 in October 2002.

Morgan was backed by chief inspector of prisons Anne Owers, who warned the system was approaching “breaking point”.

In August, the board announced a number of emergency measures to tackle overcrowding, such as safe cell-sharing, using out-of-commission cells and increasing the number of 18-year-old who can be moved to adult prisons.

But the board insisted the problem could only be tackled in the long term by increasing investment in prevention and parenting support programmes. It also called on the government and courts to make better use of community sentences.

The board warned that the rise in the custodial population was increasing the risk of self-harm and of disturbances in custody, and had led to the “bussing” of young people around the country.


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