Children in custody
Children in custody
Positive Justice Gloucestershire's March forum discussed 'Children in Custody' at the Black Book café in Nelson St., which proved to be an excellent venue.. Ross Little, of the Howard League for Penal Reform was the first speaker. He heads the UR Boss section which gives a voice to young people in custody or recently released. He told us that England and Wales has the youngest age of criminal responsibility in all Europe. Here, children as young as ten can be considered to be criminals: in Belgium the age is 18. In addition, in the UK we are far less forgiving, more punitive than most other countries. Elsewhere more effort is made to give support and help, rather than to punish. There were 1,374 children under 18 in custody last year which is half what it was a few years ago. Campaigning by the Howard League may be one reason for this welcome reduction. Our local Young Offenders' Institution, Ashfield, near Bristol is due to close, largely because there are now fewer young people being locked up. On average 72% of young people incarcerated re-offend within one year.It costs £244 million to keep young people in custody, far more than if they had been at the most expensive private schools. Many children who have been remanded in custody go on to be found not guilty, or not given a custodial sentence, but their lives may well have already been ruined by the (costly) experience.Jane Marriott from Gloucester Youth Support Team told us that the custody rate in Gloucestershire is low: currently there are nine children in custody in Gloucestershire. Her team are dealing with the most damaged children often from very deprived backgrounds, who frequently suffer ongoing traumas. The team try to get community resolutions rather than short custodial sentences which are not useful. Sadly, violent offending has risen with the gang culture. She mentioned the positive work of the St Giles Trust and Re-think which offers help to those with mental health problems. She spoke about the political effects of things like the Bulger case and the concern with "keeping the public safe" but hopes for a higher age of criminal responsibility. Following these illuminating and professional presentations by the two speakers members were involved in a lively and positive question and answer session. PJG are hoping to make a response to the government's Green paper on 'Transforming Youth Custody'. Anyone interested in participating in this should ring 01453 759438 or email firstname.lastname@example.org The meeting felt that the system badly needs reforming. It is costly and ineffective, but they were doubtful about some of the proposals the government is making.
Further info: Mary Brown, 01453 759438 or email@example.com
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