19 May Separation, seclusion and solitary confinement of children in custodial institutions
Separation, seclusion and solitary confinement of children in custodial institutions
Symposium43Angus Jones, HM Inspectorate of Prisons, United Kingdom; Laura Janes, Howard League for Penal Reform, United Kingdom; Heidi Hales, NHS, United Kingdom
Room 3EThu 10:30 - 12:00
A discussion about the impact of separating children from their peers in custodial institutions. Contributions from HM Inspector Presentation 1: Separation of Children in a UK context in 2019 HM Inspectorate of prisons conducted a thematic inspection of separation of children in custodial institutions across England and Wales. This inspection visited all young offender institutions in England and Wales, interviewed 48 children and 37 members of staff. Inspectors tracked in detail the treatment of 57 children. The findings are source of significant concern; despite a myriad of safeguards and checks most children experienced a regime that amounted to solitary confinement (spending more than 22 hours locked up without meaningful interaction with staff or peers). Some children spent as little as 15 minutes out of their cell each day. In addition, managers at all levels did not intervene quickly enough to prevent children from experiencing these harmful regimes for extended periods of time. Inspectors found significant delays with authorisations for separation, healthcare assessments and transfers to secure mental healthcare facilities. Presentation 2: Solitory confinement and the law A discussion about the evolving legal framework governing segregation and solitary confinement of children. The Howard League for Penal Reform legal team is the only national specialist service dealing with the legal rights and entitlements of children and young people in custody across England and Wales. The custodial population of children in England and Wales has fallen dramatically in the last decade but there is evidence to show an increase in need and deterioration in treatment over this time. Children in custody in the are more likely to be involved in disciplinary procedures and experience segregation and solitary confinement than their adult counterparts. However, they are also much less likely to complain about treatment or enforce their rights. The Howard League's telephone helpline supports hundreds of children and young people each year. Evidence from this work demonstrates the scope of the problems and potential legal solutions to injustices faced by children and young people in the criminal justice system. The discussion will focus on how the separation of children in custody engages and may breach articles within the European Convention on Human Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the impact the Howard League's legal work has had on practice in England and Wales. Presentation 3: Solidory confinement and medical practice There is a growing international consensus – from groups including the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture, and the United Nation’s Special Rapporteur on Torture – that solitary confinement should never be used on children. In 2018 the British Medical Association, Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health issues a joint position statement on solitary confinement of children. This stated, “In light of its potential to cause harm, and in the absence of compelling evidence for its use, we call for an end to the use of solitary confinement on children and young people detained in the youth justice system”. Despite this, solitary confinement continues to be used and doctors are routinely asked to participate in the decision to separate children from their peers. The discussion will focus on the ethical issues this creates for psychiatrists. In particular, the need to engage with prison managers to reduce the use of separation, and the tension in the the dual role of caring for the child while managing their risk to others.