Tough rhetoric fuels rise in teenage inmates

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The Independent Online
The Howard League for Penal Reform yesterday called for an end to the use of prison for teenage offenders after a report highlighted a big increase in the jailing of 15- and 16-year-olds. It blamed tough law-and-order rhetoric from politicians for fuelling a steep rise in the number of juveniles and young offenders held in custody.

The report argued that local authority secure units are the appropriate place for those children who have to be detained. The Government has already pledged to ensure 15- and 16-year-olds do not mix with older offenders.

The Prison Service said that the untried juvenile prison population - those on remand - rose by about 20 per cent between June 1995 and June 1996, from 409 to 485. And the number of sentenced juveniles - 15- to 17-year-olds - rose by 37 per cent over the same period, from 988 to 1,356.

The report argues that sending children into custody results in high levels of self-injury and bullying, and alarming reconviction rates. The Chief Inspector of Prisons has also identified this as a problem and has set up an inquiry. Jason Bennetto