Young offender institutions aren’t fit for purpose | Letter

Not only is incarceration ineffective in addressing their criminal behaviour, it perpetuates their experiences of violence and abuse, writes Pam Hibbert

It is gratifying to see a report based on good evidence from the College of Policing (Prison does not work for young knife-crime offenders – study, 27 April), but their research applies not only to knife crime offenders – prison is bad for all children.

Not only is it ineffective in addressing their criminal behaviour, it perpetuates their experiences of violence and abuse. In 2017 the government’s own inspectors found that not one single young offender unit or secure training centre was safe and that a tragedy was inevitable. A recent serious case review listed a catalogue of abuse and failure to protect children at a secure training centre, and children in custody made 1,070 claims of sexual abuse between 2009-17.

Locking up a child is one of the most profound actions the state can take, and there should be an absolute duty to ensure that only those presenting a serious risk should be incarcerated. They must be kept in establishments designed and staffed to ensure professional and appropriate care and rehabilitation. I commend to your readers a recent publication by the End Child Imprisonment group which outlines the principles that should underpin the approach to these children. It is to everyone’s benefit that we change our current system, which has been unfit for purpose for decades.
Pam Hibbert
Llangammarch Wells, Powys

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