Jailed children ‘sex crime risk’

Published: Tuesday 10th February 2015 by The News Editor

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Children who are sent to jail could be more likely to commit sex offences later in life, prison reform campaigners have warned.

A report by the Commission on Sex in Prison released today suggested high levels of violence and coercion in prisons could lead to increased sexual aggression.

The 15-strong commission, established by The Howard League for Penal Reform, also found large prisons with lower staff-to-child ratios were failing to meet the needs of vulnerable children, while homophobia was also common in boys’ institutions.

It claimed the prison regime’s intolerance and punishment of “normal adolescent sexual experimentation” made it difficult for youngsters to “develop a healthy sexual identity”, leading to guilt and shame and a higher risk of future sex offending.

Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “The evidence from this independent and expert commission shows that sentencing boys to prison damages the individual children and could store up long-term harm for society by creating future victims.

“We know that prisons holding children are hotbeds of violence. We now know that they impair healthy sexual development.

“There is only one clear lesson – no child should be held in a prison.”

Prisons for boys in England hold at least 130 children but the commission, in its fourth paper on the issue of sex in prisons, cited research from the US Bureau of Justice Statistics that suggested those which hold 100 or more were at increased risk of sexual abuse from other children and staff.

It comes after the Government last month announced a new £85 million “secure college” would be built next year to house u p to 320 young offenders aged between 12 and 17 on land next to Glen Parva Youth Offenders Institute (YOI) in Leicestershire.

At the time, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: “We need to turn these young people into better citizens, not better criminals. If we want to stop prisons being colleges of crime, we have to teach these kids how to do something else.”

But the report suggested should children need to be sent to prison it should be in smaller units with trained staff and a focus on education, therapy and behaviour.

Chris Sheffield, chairman of the commission, said: “These initial findings raise serious issues which require further research and study. It is a matter of deep concern if there is an increased risk of sex offences occurring as some of the studies have indicated.”

As of the end of November last year, there were 1,323 young people in youth custody in England and Wales.

Published: Tuesday 10th February 2015 by The News Editor

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