Child imprisonment is wrong – let’s end it | Letter

Representatives of Article 39, Inquest, the Howard League and the National Association for Youth Justice join others to announce the launch this month of England’s first collaborative campaign to end the incarceration of under-18s

Mark Johnson is right that we should feel deeply uncomfortable about incarcerating children (Children in prison are struggling but no one really cares, 7 November). The latest official data shows that 42% of children in young offender institutions were previously in care and one in every five is disabled. A high number of children enter prison already the subject of local authority child protection plans. Mental health difficulties are common. Yet prisons are incapable of meeting even children’s very basic needs, with many locked in their cells for 22 hours a day and kept permanently scared and hungry.

We have come together to say enough is enough. Later this month, in the House of Lords, we launch England’s first collaborative campaign to end child imprisonment. Children’s lives, wellbeing and rehabilitation are matters for the social welfare system. The minority of children who have to be detained for safety reasons should be looked after in places where all of their needs are met, and their rights protected. These establishments must be managed within our child welfare system, rather than the part of government responsible for adult imprisonment. We should indeed care more for children in trouble with the law.
Carolyne Willow Director, Article 39
Barry Anderson Vice-president, National Association for Youth Justice
Maggie Atkinson Children’s commissioner for England 2010-15
Deborah Coles Director, Inquest
Frances Crook Chief executive, Howard League for Penal Reform
Richard Garside Director, Centre for Crime and Justice Studies
Professor Barry Goldson Department of sociology, social policy and criminology, University of Liverpool
Pippa Goodfellow Senior lecturer in youth justice, Nottingham Trent University
Pam Hibbert
Ross Little Chair, National Association for Youth Justice
Dr David Scott Senior lecturer, criminology, The Open University
Dr Serena Wright Lecturer in criminology, Royal Holloway, University of London

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