“Child prisons are costly, failing institutions that are violent, unsafe and ineffective – sweeping vulnerable children and young people into a world of further crime from which it is impossible to escape. We need to think again and create alternatives that guide children to safer more stable shores and improve public safety for us all.”
Enver Solomon, CEO, Just for Kids Law
The End Child Imprisonment campaign is led by a coalition of organisations including Article 39, the Howard League, Inquest, the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, NAYJ and Just for Kids Law. The campaign calls for a child rights-centred approach to youth justice.
The End Child Imprisonment aims to:
- Press for the closure of England’s child prisons and raise awareness of the harms of child imprisonment.
- Propose a child welfare-based and human rights compliant secure model for the small number of children who cannot be safely looked after and supported in the community.
- Push for responsibility for detained children to be moved out of the government department that deals with adult imprisonment. At a local level, responsibility for the care and support of detained children must lie with children’s social care services.
- Seek changes to law and practice so that deprivation of liberty is an absolute measure of last resort, leading to substantially fewer children being detained.
- Remove punishment and deterrence as reasons for locking up children.
The campaign was launched in November 2018 at an event in the House of Lords featuring speakers from civil society as well as the parents of young people who were exposed to the harsh reality of childhood imprisonment.
As someone who had no knowledge of young offending institutions, I didn’t learn what goes on until it was too late.
Liz Hardy, whose 17-year-old son Jake was found dead in his cell at Hindley Young Offenders Institution in 2012, speaking at the campaign launch
In April 2019, the campaign put forward a new approach with the publication of a set of principles and minimum expectations for reducing the number of children locked up and making sure secure care is effective and safe. The document provides a positive framework for addressing harmful behaviour and meeting children’s needs outside of prison, stating that child prisons are failing institutions causing devastating harm to vulnerable children and should be closed immediately, and that only children who pose a serious risk to themselves or others should ever be deprived of their liberty.
Most recently in June 2019, a Westminster Hall debate sponsored by Emma Lewell-Buck MP focused on the abolition of child imprisonment. MPs concurred that child imprisionment should be a last resort and that children deprived of their liberty must be treated with humanity and respect and in accordance with their age.