A recent report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons reveals some disturbing data. The purpose of the report was to examine the way in which children are treated in our Young Offender Institutes and in particular to assess if being detained a long way from home had an impact on the experiences of the children involved. The background to this is the fact that there are far fewer YOI than adult prisons and the number of children held in a custodial centre is relatively small too. However this has an impact on the lives of the children concerned. It was shown in one measure as being for every 25 mile further from home that a child was placed, resulted in one fewer visit from family or friends. One child placed 187 miles from home, received no visits in a 4 month period! This all points towards the need for smaller youth offender institutions, to be placed closer to local communities as well as for far fewer custodial sentences in the first place and a more constructive approach to young people who break our laws.
However the questions asked also disclosed some information which was not the primary reason for the research and so could easily be missed by people who wanted a straight answer to their question. According to the report, Muslim children and children who identified as being from a black and minority ethnic background were significantly less likely to report feeling respected by staff. Those children self-identifying as disabled were also significantly less likely to report this. The odds of being restrained were 2.5 times higher for those children identifying as belonging to a black and ethnic minority group. Muslim children were twice as likely to report victimisation and the odds of victimisation were 98% higher for disabled children and 39% higher for children with experience of local authority care. All of these results are deeply disturbing, simply because these children are out of sight for most of us, does not mean we can afford to ignore their plight. Whatever the reason for their incarceration there can be no excuse for them being treated worse because of the colour of their skin, their religion or because they are disabled.