Saturday, July 02, 2016

The use of restraint, solitary confinement and strip-searching on children - letter to Julian Sturdy

Dear Mr Sturdy,

I have just read one of the most shocking reports on the use of restraint, solitary confinement and strip-searching on children in the UK.  This was a follow-up report from the Carlile Inquiry 10 years ago.  They key points are:
  • In child prisons, adults can use physical force on children. The majority of children are detained in institutions where restraint is routinely used to get children to do as they are told. This is unlawful 
  • Despite a decrease in the number of children in custody, the rate of restraint has more than doubled in the last five years 
  • Force that causes the deliberate infliction of pain on children account for over a third of all approved ‘techniques’ that can be used on children. Pain is being used illegally to secure children’s compliance 
  • 4,350 injuries have been sustained by children while being subject to restraint between 2011 and 2015 
  • The current crisis in children’s prisons has given rise to the widespread practice of holding children in conditions of solitary confinement on main prison wings, locked in their cells for 23 hours a day 
  • Conditions in segregation units have not improved since 2006, when the Carlile Inquiry described them as “little more than bare, dark and dank cells that exacerbate underlying risks and vulnerabilities”. Segregation units should be immediately closed 
  • Routine strip-searching has ended and been replaced by a risk-led approach. In 2015, however, there were 367 strip- searches of boys in prison
Full details of the report can be found on the Howard League for Penal Reform website here.

I hope you are as shocked as I am about this.  I have written innumerable letters to foreign governments about similar issues at the behest of Amnesty International, and am completely shocked to find that I am having to write similar letters about the behaviour in British Prisoners. 

I would urge you to
  • Demand that the Minister for Justice to take urgent action to address the issues by 
    • immediately banning the use of control techniques that deliberately cause pain,
    • immediately close segregation units,
    • ensuring that children are held sufficiently close to their families so that they can have the frequent visits that they need. This includes the need for affordable public transport access
    • ordering an enquiry into the use of restraint and the injuries that have been caused. 
    • ensuring that companies which have been responsible for assaulting child prisoners are stripped of their prisons and not allowed to run any other prisons
  • Demand that the Home Secretary order a criminal investigation into assaults on these children,
    • Ensure that those who have behaved criminally are prosecuted; and this should be both the individuals and the companies involved.
Finally I hope you will fail able to submit the following Early Day Motion (or something similar)

This house notes with grave concern the Howard League for Penal Reform’s report “The Carlile Inquiry 10 years on”.  In particular it notes that over 4,300 children have been injured while being restrained between 2011 and 2015; that many of the approved techniques for restraining children deliberately inflict pain; that the majority of children are detained in institutions where restraint is routinely uses and that this is unlawful; and urges the government to order a public inquiry into children’s prisons and to require that criminal behaviour is investigated and prosecuted.

As I say, I hope that you are as shocked and horrified as I am and will press this matter very hard.

Best wishes


Tom Franklin

4 Frazer Court
YO30 5FH

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