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Dungeons for Kids
August 18, 2009 permalink
Here is a glimpse inside the jails for children in Britain. While kids suffer irreparable harm by spending their formative years in dungeons, politicians boast about new juvenile detention centres or pretend they are protective of children.
Young offenders are being held in 'dungeons', says child jail report
David Batty, The Guardian, Monday 17 August 2009
Young offenders are detained in "modern-day dungeons" where they suffer injuries from forced physical restraint, strip searches and are denied access to showers and toilets, a damning report on the state of child jails says today.
The report by the Howard League for Penal Reform, which examined the findings of inspections of 15 jails holding children, found "dire conditions" across the system. At the privately run Ashfield jail in Gloucestershire, near Bristol, which holds male youths aged 15-18, prison inspectors found that inmates were denied toilet breaks during journeys to and from the jail and some boys said they were forced to urinate in a plastic bag.
There was also an unacceptable use of strip searching, with inmates routinely stripped on arrival at the jail and every two months after that.
"Children being taken back and forth to court are not allowed a comfort break and must urinate in a plastic bag," Frances Crook, director of the Howard League, said of the jail, run by the company Serco.
"The court could be anywhere in England – Bristol, London, Manchester. It could be a four-hour or longer journey to London and the staff in the vans are not trained to deal with children. So they arrive at court or back at Ashfield in a very distressed state. And once they're back at Ashfield they're strip searched."
Serco did not respond to requests to comment on the report. The lack of toilet breaks on journeys to court was also identified in an earlier prison inspectorate report in 2006.
Jails condemned in the Howard League audit include Cookham Wood, in Borstal, Kent, where inspectors in February found more than a quarter (26%) of boys felt unsafe with many unwilling to leave their cells because they feared being bullied or getting into a fight. More than a third (35%) of inmates said they had been physically restrained.
At Castington prison in Northumberland, inspectors in January found that seven young people suffered broken wrists while being forcibly restrained and there were another three cases of suspected fractures. Less than half of the staff had been vetted by the Criminal Records Bureau to check they were safe to work with children, and showers could only be used twice a week.
At Wetherby prison in West Yorkshire, inspectors found boys were routinely strip searched, even when it was known they were victims of sexual abuse, less than a fifth of inmates could shower every day and some were locked in their cells for 21 hours a day.
At Werrington prison in Staffordshire, inspectors in 2008 found forcible strip searching was carried out with no evidence of authorisation by a governor and in two incidents where boys' clothes were forcibly cut off, staff failed to try to gain their compliance.
Crook said the report showed that extraordinary squalor and institutional brutality were endemic in young offender institutions.
She said: "There is a systemic problem," she said. "It's not a case of a bad apple in the barrel – all the apples are bad. Our legal teams talks to 40 or 50 children in young offender institutions across the country every month and the common complaints we hear are allegations of being raped by their cellmate, arms being broken during restraint by staff and being held in solitary confinement.
"We keep children smelly and dirty, idle and frightened, bored with education and cooped up in modern-day dungeons. And we expect them miraculously to pupate into responsible citizens.
"In reality, these young people leave prison more damaged and more dangerous than when they first went in. It is frankly shocking that we treat children in this way in the 21st century."
A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: "The National Offender Management Service takes full account of all inspections carried out by Her Majesty's Chief Inspectorate of Prisons and endeavours to address all recommendations made in their reports.
"Regimes provide education, training and healthcare and have arrangements in place to safeguard and promote the welfare of young people in its care, including strategies for child protection, suicide and self-harm prevention and violence reduction.
"Work is continuing on raising the quality of the services provided and developing new initiatives that will help further ensure positive outcomes for all the young people."
Source: Guardian (UK)