DEMAND: Young people want youth custody suites and police stations to have cameras
YOUNG PEOPLE are advocating for more police stations and youth custody settings to be equipped with sound recording cameras to prevent violent confrontations, a report has said.
The report put together by the Children’s Rights Alliance for England and a team of young investigators with experience of custody highlighted the concerns of youths.
Staff members were criticised for sometimes goading young people, by talking about their offence and using excessive force when intervening in an incident. “Sometimes it’s not right, they go over the top,” one 16-year-old boy told researchers. “They hurt people”.
Several interviewees described police officers using humiliating and threatening language and higher levels of force than necessary in dedicated youth custody settings. One 16-year-old girl said: “In police stations I’ve had my finger slammed in cell doors. And I’ve almost broken my jaw when he slammed us down on concrete.”
Speaking to Children And Young People Now, the young investigators warned that sometimes “claustrophobic atmosphere” and “boredom, frustration and stress” act as triggers for violence in custody.
They also said the actions of staff could lead to incidents, and argued that cameras with sound recording should be used to monitor behaviour as it would increase professionals’ transparency and accountability.
Reacting to the report, director of campaigns at the Howard League for Penal Reform, Andrew Neilson, told Children and Young People Now: “Adult-style jails are not safe places for children. Young people have described how violence is a common experience in custody, with children attacking each other and staff too readily using physical force to control them.
He added: “Their compelling accounts combine to illustrate why there is no place for inflicting painful restraint on children, a practice that has been linked to the deaths of two young boys in privately run secure training centres.”
The report has 19 recommendations designed to reduce violence. It called for greater emphasis on talking as a means of resolving conflict, more access to physical activities for young offenders, and proposed that staff in youth custody settings have direct experience of working with young people.
Paola Uccellari, director of the Children’s Rights Alliance for England, said government, the Youth Justice Board, governors of custodial settings, police forces and judges must take young people’s recommendations seriously.
“The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child guarantees every child the right to be free from all forms of violence,” she said.
“Sadly, we know that children and young people experience violence in custodial settings–and our research…confirms this.”