Private prisons to continue pain restraint on young offenders

Tom Griffin
16 December 2008

Tom Griffin (London, OK): Young offenders institutions are to be allowed to continue using pain-inflicting restraint techniques following a government review published yesterday.

The review was set up following inquests last year into the deaths of 14-year-old Adam Rickwood and 15-year-old Gareth Myatt in privately-run secure training centres in 2004.

The Guardian reports:

The court of appeal ruled in July that the existing rules on restraint were unlawful and exposed children to the risk of inhuman and degrading treatment. The review by Andrew Williamson and Peter Smallridge (which went to ministers in June but was only published yesterday), concludes that "a degree of pain compliance may be necessary in exceptional circumstances".

It advises that a safer system of restraint in child jails needs to be developed and this should be based primarily on holds that avoid pain.

The report calls for a ban on some restraint techniques currently being practiced. The Government's response allows for these to continue in use for the next six months.

Inquest co-director Deborah Coles (pdf) argues that the review does not go far enough:

“We are bitterly disappointed that the findings of this review endorse the use of painful restraint even though two children died following its use. This is despite clear objections raised by the UN, the Council of Europe, the parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights and the Children’s Commissioner for England.

Whilst we welcome any measures that aim to reduce the use of restraint, we question why the review took place within a framework that accepts state-sanctioned violence against children as part of the culture of these institutions. This was an opportunity to make a real difference to safeguarding the human rights of children in custody. Instead we have yet another report that outlines little more than what was already known at the conclusion of the inquests into the deaths of Gareth Myatt and Adam ickwood some18 months ago. Surely we can think of a better solution than hurting children in order to manage them?

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