A government proposal to put children as young as 12 into young offenders institutions has been condemned as ‘retrograde’ by the Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association (CPHVA).
The CPHVA is concerned that the Home Office consultation document Youth Justice – The Next Steps wants to remove the restriction, which currently prevents children
aged 12-14 being held with children aged 15-18.
The CPHVA wants the present system – where offenders under 15 are held in small units run by local authorities – strengthened.
The CPHVA’s director, Mark Jones said: ‘Children under 15 would be better placed in smaller institutions close to their homes where their families can play a positive part in their development.’
Institutions catering for older teenagers are often far away from family homes and have ‘the atmosphere of a prison rather than a school’ with all the adverse effects that has on impressionable youngsters.
Mark Jones said: ‘Older children can have a bad influence on 12-to-14 year olds and draw them further into the criminal milieu. Rehabilitation rather than recidivism should be society’s goal.’
The recent CPHVA AGM voted unanimously to ask the relevant government departments to reconsider the proposal.
AGM delegates were also worried that there was no health dimension to the Home Office’s proposals and urged that a health worker should be attached to local authority youth offender teams.
The CPHVA said many young teenagers who get into trouble with the law aren’t registered with a GP, haven’t had the relevant school immunisations and know little about sexual or personal health and have mental health problems.
Mark Jones said: ‘Many of them are deeply involved with drugs and alcohol and have no danger about the danger of tobacco smoking. The inclusion of a health worker would start to tackle these problems.’