Shine A Light

Two deaths in one week: is banging children up a good idea?

Warehousing troubled children in large prisons does not work.

Sophie Willett
26 January 2012

A second teenager has died in the space of a week after being found unconscious in a cell of a young offender institution.  His death comes just a day after that of 17-year-old Jake Hardy, who died in hospital on Tuesday after being found at Hindley Young Offenders Institute in Wigan.
 
A Prison Service spokesperson said: "HMYOI Cookham Wood prisoner Alex Kelly was found in his cell at approximately 8.30pm on Tuesday 24 January. Staff attempted resuscitation, paramedics attended and he was taken to outside hospital but was pronounced dead at 7.30pm on Wednesday 25 January."
 
The Prison Service said Alex Kelly had been identified as being at risk of suicide or self-harm, but did not give details of the boy's condition when he was found.
 
Andrew Neilson, director of campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform said, “We are shocked to hear the news of a second child dying within a week at young offenders institutions in England, and this should a matter of major public concern.
 
Cookham Wood prison has had a chequered past. Bullying is rife and children are repeatedly restrained by staff, far more than elsewhere in the children’s prison estate.  Children were physically assaulted and subject to verbal intimidation. The last inspection report found the prison to be unsafe. So why do we continue to send children there, and places like it? We lump young people in trouble with the law together under one roof, exposing them to violence, substandard education provision and long periods of boredom and expect them to alter into law abiding citizens.
 
“The truth is that warehousing children in large prisons is completely inappropriate and ignores the fact that young people in conflict with the law often present many complex needs that a prison simply cannot provide for. Banging children up simply exacerbates those needs and puts them in touch with other troubled children, rather than the support and care that is desperately needed. Deaths and other signs of distress are sadly inevitable while we persist in sending vulnerable children by the hundreds into these dismal institutions.”

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