Cameras with sound recording should be installed in youth custody and police stations say children and young people
The Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRAE) has today published a research report presenting children’s experiences of violence in custody and setting out their suggestions for creating violence-free custodial settings. A team of young investigators led the research and helped to draft the report’s 19 recommendations aimed at Government ministers, the Youth Justice Board, Governors of custodial settings, police forces and judges. A group of young people with direct experience of custody are now campaigning on two of the recommendations.
Children and young people talked about the conditions that create violence in custody. They described a claustrophobic atmosphere where boredom, frustration and stress act as triggers for violence. Young people explained how the actions of staff can lead to violence in custody. Staff members were criticised for goading young people by bringing up their offence and for using force excessively when intervening in an incident: ‘sometimes it’s not right, they go over the top… they hurt people’ (Male, 16).
Several interviewees described police officers using humiliating and threatening language and higher levels of force than experienced in custody. One female (aged 16) said, ‘In police stations I’ve had my finger slammed in cell doors… And I’ve almost broken my jaw when he slammed us down on concrete…’ One of the report’s recommendations calls for cameras with sound recording to be installed in custodial and police settings to monitor behaviour and ensure greater staff transparency and accountability.
The recommendations also call for the authorities to relieve the claustrophobic atmosphere in custodial settings that contributes to violence by engaging young people in physical activities; for greater emphasis on talking as a means of resolving conflict in custody and for staff in youth custodial settings to have experience of working with young people and be able to relate to them well.
Paola Uccellari, CRAE’s Director said:
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child guarantees every child the right to be free from all forms of violence. Sadly, we know that children and young people experience violence in custodial settings – and our reaserch released today confirms this. However, the unique aspect of this research is that young people have developed a clear set of recommendations for how to reduce violence in custody. We hope that Government and relevant bodies will take these recommendations seriously and we look forward to hearing what action will be taken to achieve violence free custody for all children and young people.
The young campaigners taking forward the recommendations are being supported by the organisation User Voice. Mark Johnson, the Founder of User Voice said:
User Voice support the work of CRAE and in particular the research findings contained within this report. I'm pleased that some of the young people engaged with User Voice projects across the country are working with CRAE taking forward the report recommendations as 'Young Campaigners' in the second phase of the project.
Commenting on the publication of CRAE’s report, Juliet Lyon, Director of Prison Reform Trust said:
‘Too often violence and neglect at home have been an everyday part of the lives of children who end up in trouble with the law - all the more important that every effort is made to ensure that, if they are detained in custody, they are held safely and securely and treated with decency and respect. ‘Ending Violence against Children in Custody’, a disturbing new report by the Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRAE) sheds light on the causes of violence in secure training centres and young offender institutions from the perspective of young people themselves. It outlines the importance of staff giving time to listen to young people’s concerns, in building positive, professional relations with children and young people and so helping to reduce violence endemic in some of these establishments.’
Andrew Neilson, Director of Campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “It is almost never right to take children and young people away from their communities and put them in custody but, where this happens, it is essential that they are protected from physical and emotional harm. The findings of this report make it abundantly clear that adult-style jails are not safe places for children.
“Young people have described how violence is a common experience in custody, with children attacking each other and staff too readily using physical force to control them. Their compelling accounts combine to illustrate why there is no place for inflicting painful restraint on children, a practice that has been linked to the deaths of two young boys in privately run secure training centres.
‘We currently have a criminal justice system which trains badly behaved children for a life of crime. It is time for authorities start listening to the views of young people and act upon them, reducing the risk that they will reoffend – an outcome all victims of crime would wish to see.”