Children

Commenting on the announcement today (14 October) that Ofsted, HM Inspectorate of Prisons, and the Care Quality Commission has triggered the Urgent Notification process for Oakhill Secure Training Centre, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

“This is the third occasion that a Secure Training Centre has been found to be totally unfit to hold the children the government has entrusted to its care. It shows that our whole approach to the imprisonment of children is in urgent need of a rethink. As other governments have done before it, this administration has placed its faith in the invention of a new type of institution—on this occasion a ‘secure school’. But that looks dangerously like window dressing when the first example has yet to open nearly 5 years after the government announced this model as the way forward.

“In the meantime, custodial remand of children has increased sharply, and the government is legislating to punish children even more severely, taking less rather than more account of the scientific evidence on maturity.

“It’s time the government sought expert help to craft a practical national strategy. Without it, they are condemning more children to suffer abuse in a broken system.”

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Commenting on HM Inspectorate of Prisons annual report on children’s experiences in custody, Peter Dawson, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“This damning report describes conditions for imprisoned children that predate the pandemic. It shows a third of children not able to shower once a day. Most of these teenagers couldn’t even play sport once a week. More than two out of every five had been bullied. And in a system where over half come from an ethnic minority, the colour of your skin led to an even worse experience across almost every aspect of daily life inside.

But despite these shameful facts, the government has published a white paper which will reverse the steady decline in the number of children we imprison, and which accepts that its proposals will have a disproportionate impact on children of colour. Parliament should refuse to countenance such an appalling prospect.”

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Commenting on the publication of today’s (18 December) joint inspection report by Ofsted, HM Inspectorate of Prisons, and the Care Quality Commission, on conditions at Rainsbrook Secure Training Centre (STC), Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

“The new Chief Inspector of Prisons is right to be astonished that management at Rainsbrook STC did not put right the shortcomings laid bare by a highly critical inspection earlier in the year. The challenges posed by the pandemic cannot excuse the prolonged solitary confinement of children, nor the fact that this appeared to need a further inspection to be brought to light.”

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Today the Prison Reform Trust published a letter it has received from the Secretary of State to Justice Rt Hon Robert Buckland MP QC regarding video calls in prison.

Responding to concerns raised by the Prison Reform Trust of the risk that video calls might become a substitute for face-to-face visits, the Secretary of State provides an assurance that “it is absolutely not the intention that video calling will be a substitute for face-to-face visits. Where face-to-face visits can safely be delivered and remain the preference, no prisoner should be asked to substitute that for a video call.”

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Commenting on the proposals in Charlie Taylor’s review of the use of pain-inducing techniques during restraint in the secure estate for children that was published on the 18th June, Peter Dawson, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“We welcome the decision to remove pain-inducing restraint from the MMPR syllabus. But the issue has been dogged by long delays, so absolute clarity is needed on the government’s position in relation to all the Taylor recommendations. That means prompt public commitments to what action will be taken and by when, and those are noticeably missing from the government’s accompanying response. Above all, the chronic overuse of pain inducing techniques has to stop—independent, transparent oversight is key, and the government’s apparent equivocation on that issue is a cause for concern.”

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