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Children Commissioner reports young custody settings are not safe for family visits

The Children’s Commissioner has released a new report calling for immediate action to address family contact, violence and education  in youth custody

Rachel De Souza’s report, ‘Family contact in youth custody’ was based on a series of visits to the youth custody settings with the intention of understanding family relationships, and how important ties to children’s families and wider support networks are supported by those settings.

Children reported that frequently family visits were cancelled and how difficult it was to feel close to family members. One 16-year-old boy reported “I’ve got a very good, supportive family. But they make it so hard”. By ‘they’ he meant setting staff whose job it is to care for him; this responsibility should include helping him to maintain supportive family relationships.

De Souza said  ‘Despite the very specific research focus for these visits, my team left with a much broader set of concerns, and a deeply disturbing impression of life in custody. My team observed serious issues including the exceedingly high levels of violence in YOIs and poor retention and morale among staff. My team spoke to children who were locked up for the great majority of the weekend, accessing just 30 minutes outside their cells each day at the weekend. Understandably, boredom and frustration culminated in violence once the boys were finally allowed to socialise.

‘The implications of failing youth custody settings are not only tragic for each individual child that spends a portion of their adolescence inside a YOI. The effects will also ricochet through society throughout the lifetime of this cohort of boys. I fear that YOIs are turning out young criminals, hardened from the point at which they entered and with less trust in the state whose job it is to protect them. It is no surprise that, currently, one third (33%) go on to re-offend.’

Read the full report here

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Published on 30th March 2023