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Young lives behind bars, 04/11/14 [E/NI/S/W]

This report from the BMA’s ethics department highlights that although the origins of offending behaviour are complex, many of the children and young people in detention represent a failure by the individuals and agencies whose job it is to care for and support them. Many of them come from chaotic backgrounds and are among the most vulnerable individuals in society long before they reach detention.

Three quarters of children and young people in custody have lived with someone other than a parent and 40 per cent had been homeless in the six months before entering custody. 24% of boys and 49% of girls, aged between 15 and 18 and in custody, have been in care. Of 300 children and young people in custody and on remand, 12% were known to have lost a parent or sibling. Approximately 60% of children in custody have ‘significant’ speech, language and learning difficulties; 25-30% are learning disabled and up to 50% have learning difficulties. Over a third of children in custody were diagnosed with a mental health disorder.

The BMA is calling on the government to carry out an in-depth review of the youth secure estate and conduct further research into more welfare based alternatives.

Further Information

Young lives behind bars: the health and human rights of children and young people detained in the criminal justice system