The charity Barnardo’s has recently highlighted the issue of incarcerated young offenders, insisting that at any given time Britain has 400+ children aged between 12 and 14 locked up, a situation described by The Independent as ‘inhumane and, on all the evidence, counter-productive.’ In addition, Barnardo’s allege that at least 160 young people were wrongly imprisoned in 2007. They claim that this ‘tragedy’ is occurring because of a misinterpretation of the law. In essence ‘[t]he law specifically states that children aged 14 and under should not be locked up unless they have committed a grave offence or have committed a serious offence and are deemed to be a persistent offender’. Unfortunately, this does not appear to happen in practice, instead it would seem that there is a ratchetting up of punishment, leading to children being imprisoned for relatively trivial offences.
Although, most would agree that prison is necessary for violent criminals, it is difficult to imagine what the long term result of locking children up will be. Looking at the ongoing penal crisis and the continual problem of revolving doors, it seems likely that such a policy will simply feed the adult prisons of the future.
Brian Hogeveen on Youth (and) Violence
The BBC has today announced that the British government has decided to scrap plans for the creation of so-called “Titan” prisons. These prisons – first announced in December 2007 – were each expected to accommodate 2,500 prisoners at a cost of £350 million per institution. Although, the introduction of these prisons has been met with criticism, (partly because of their perceived similarity to American jails), it had seemed as if the government was totally committed to the project.
At present, HMP Wandsworth [pictured] is the largest institution in the prison estate (currently accommodating 1,461 prisoners), but the government plans a further five establishments with capacity for 1,500 in each. In spite of the current economic climate, government sources deny there is any link between the economy and their decision regarding the “Titan” jails. Instead, the Ministry of Justice has pointed out that prison places will still increase as originally planned, although the new prisons will be smaller.
Although, many groups and individuals may initially welcome the demise of the “Titan” prisons, it would seem that the problems of incarceration are still not being tackled. Arguably, by continuing to create more places, the prison crisis will continue unabated.
Doreen Anderson-Facile on Basic Challenges to Prisoner Reentry