I wrote fairly recently about the excessive use of physical techniques to subdue children in young offender prisons (though the name for those has been changed in some sort of ‘rebranding exercise’)
So this piece in the Guardian struck a chord with me. It is a sensational piece in terms of opening your eyes to something which is genuinely shocking, but not written in a sensationalist style.
In effect, children who are detained in young offender institutions, can be strip-searched, the official purpose being to look for contraband such as drugs or weapons.
Two years ago, the Youth Justice Board said that this practice would stop, saying that children it had consulted described the practice as undignified, leading “to feelings of anger, humiliation and anxiety”.
The piece then tracks that through careful and dogged Freedom of Information requests made by the Children’s Rights Alliance, we now know that in the last two years nearly 44 thousand strip searches of children were carried out (I’ll say that again, 44 thousand )
Of those only 275 searches found anything, mostly tobacco. No drugs or knives were found.
There are just under 1700 children in such institutions, to put that number of 44,000 into context. It is roughly one strip search per month per head of population. [Obviously in reality, not every child was strip searched once a month, there were probably a small number of children who were searched very very often who pushed those numbers up]
A good piece of work by Children’s Rights Alliance, and I thought a damn fine piece of journalism by the Guardian. This is something that makes me feel uncomfortable, and I hope that their work does something to bring it to an end.
“The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.”