Emotional & psychological effect

This essay will examine the extent of neglect of children in prison, their emotional, psychological effect, and the effect of incarceration has on them, short and long term. Children in prison have usually experienced a troubled home life, including poor parenting, violence, and abuse before they end up in prison. Even though, most of the crimes committed by children are petty, is it really necessary to lock them up, without giving them the chance to grow out of their immature, criminal activities?

There are three types of institution for these young people, youth offender institutions, secure training centres, and secure children’s homes. There has been concern about the use of custody for children for many years, intensified by scandals involving bullying, sexual abuse, suicide, self-injury, social needs of the children, such as family and education, and the risk of further criminal activity following release. Despite these problems, the government have still allowed the number of child prisoners to rise.

The UN Convention in 1989 set out a universally set of non-negotiable standards and obligations reinforcing the development of policy practice and legislation for working with children. In the convention, children are defined as persons under the age of eighteen. Approved by the UK in 1991, it became the first legally compulsory international manuscript to include the full range of human rights – civil and political rights, and economic, social, and cultural rights (Unicef, 31st December: 1995).

However, following a review by the Chief Inspector of Prisons in 1997, it was concluded that children under the age of eighteen should not be held in the prison system, due to the treatment of the prisoners, and the conditions they endured while inside. Nonetheless, the government objected these recommendations, in its place the prison service designed individual institutions, exclusively for the juvenile, with a more adequate system, to ensure the welfare of these children, and their needs were taken into account.

Based on the susceptibility of the child, the age, and the availability of places, the Youth Justice Board would decide the best place for the child to be positioned, whether in youth offender institutes, in a secure training centre, or secure children’s homes. Goldson and Muncie (2006). Children convicted of crime are usually from poorer backgrounds, with inadequate parenting, many have been sexually abused, and experience violence at home “many young offenders have experienced very poor quality parenting, disruption at home, and in some cases traumatic abuse or loss” Allen (1996).

It is just attention seeking, or a cry for help when children from such a deprived and unfortunate background begin to commit crime “sometimes when we do things like stealing cars it’s because we are trying to say something, express ourselves, because we cant always use our voice because the people who care for us very often wont listen to us, so sometimes you steal a car to get some attention because what you need is some care and understanding” (quotation from an eight year old, 1996: 23). This begs the question, should these children be locked up when they only require some love and attention?

Bullying is a major problem in children institutions, often by the guards, or officers in charge of them, and also by the older children in custody, who have usually been there a lot longer than themselves. This can range from physical abuse, verbal abuse, and psychological abuse; they are also prone to having their personal items stolen from them “the most obvious expression of bullying is physical assault. Child prisoners are also exposed to many other forms of bullying, however, including, psychological abuse, extortion and theft” Goldson (2008).

When children are placed in these institutions it is assumed they would be protected from such brutality, but Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons report in 2004 established that more than one in ten boys and girls had been bullied in the previous few days. 17% of boys and 11% of girls had undergone an initiation test. 24% of boys and 12% of girls were hit, kicked, and assaulted by young people, and 7% of boys had been forced to hand their possessions over to other young offenders (crimeinfo 17th Feb 2009).

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