IPRT - Irish Penal Reform Trust

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UK: Children and Young People in Custody 2009-10

18th November 2010

This new report sets out how young people aged 15 to 18 describe their own experience of imprisonment in 2009/10. It is based on the experience of 1,115 young men in all 15 prison establishments and 47 young women in all four prison establishments in which they were held. These represent 47% and 90% respectively of the total population of young men and women in prison at the time these surveys took place.

The report shows that the number of young people in custody, held in young offender institutions, fell during 2009-10 from 2,126 to 1,724. However, despite this the treatment of and conditions for young people in custody have deteriorated in some areas. 23% of young men and 38% of the young women reported emotional or mental health problems while 30% of the young men and 47% of the young women said they had had no visits in the last month or never had visits. Most young people said they were involved in purposeful activity, but 11% of young men and 10% of young women said they did not have a job, were not taking part in education, vocational training or offending behaviour programmes.

Penelope Gibbs, director of the Prison Reform Trust’s campaign to reduce child imprisonment, said: "Given a significant fall in the number of children and young people in custody over the past two years, it’s surprising there is no significant improvement in the prison experience. Overall, the survey suggests imprisonment is not a deterrence, and should be reserved only for young people who have committed serious violent crimes."

Andrew Neilson, assistant director of the Howard League for Penal Reform added: "We work with children who have experienced neglect and abuse, with chaotic family backgrounds and problems ranging from mental health needs to drug or alcohol addictions. 

"Prison is the worst place we could choose to send these troubled children, yet we continue to do so with little regard for the consequences. Something is going seriously wrong when more than 90 per cent of children in prison want to stop offending, but only half report having experienced anything which might help them."

Read more:
  • See the full report here
  • Read coverage in the Children & Young People Now Daily Bulletin
Learn more