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Eng & Wales: Report published on children's experience of violence in custody

26th February 2013

The Children’s Rights Alliance for England has published a report as part of the Ending Violence against Children in Custody project, highlighting the views and opinions of children and young people about their personal experiences of violence in custody and their recommendations for how it can be reduced or eradicated. 

All children and young people interviewed understood “violence” as a physical act, with the majority of participants saying that it can also take other forms, such as verbal or emotional violence. In relation to violence in custody, interviewees explained that violence (both physical and emotional) could take place between young people and between staff and young people. ‘[Violence can be] from staff to kids, kids to kids and kids to staff.’’ (Male, 15)

For the young people interviewed, there was a noted difference between the kinds of violence experienced outside, in the home, streets and wider community and that experienced in custody. While some young people felt that the violence was worse outside, that there was more of it and that people rarely stepped in to stop it, one female said that violence inside was worse, ‘because you can’t get away from it’ (Female, 19).

There was a general consensus among the interviewees that staff stepped in to stop fights and to separate young people, acknowledging that staff had to use restraint as part of their job in order to prevent further violence, but many felt that staff sometimes use too much force: ‘sometimes it’s not right, they go over the top a bit…they hurt people’ (Male, 16). Several young people commented that some staff are really good: ‘most of the staff in here I think are amazing…’ (Female 16), and others are not.

Many of the young people interviewed were pessimistic about being able to create violence-free custody. When asked what they would do if they were in charge of their custodial setting, some believed that the system of custody itself contributed to violence. Many of the young people also felt that it is not possible to change human nature and that some people just want to fight. ‘To improve that you’d have to improve people; you’re not going to improve people…’ (Male, 17).

The recommendations of the report are based on the experiences of the children and young people in custody. They include:

  • Clear rules should be set out on the use of force in custodial settings.
  • Cameras with sound recording should be installed in custodial settings.
  • Listening and talking should be encouraged as a means of conflict resolution.
  • Staff should be employed who like young people and come from similar backgrounds to those in custody: staff should be open-minded, able to listen effectively and able to see beyond the reasons for the young people being in custody.
  • Young people should be involved in staff training in custodial settings.

The full report and recommendations can be read here