The Tragedy of Incarcerated Children
The charity Barnardo’s has recently highlighted the issue of incarcerated young offenders, insisting that at any given time Britain has 400+ children aged between 12 and 14 locked up, a situation described by The Independent as ‘inhumane and, on all the evidence, counter-productive.’ In addition, Barnardo’s allege that at least 160 young people were wrongly imprisoned in 2007. They claim that this ‘tragedy’ is occurring because of a misinterpretation of the law. In essence ‘[t]he law specifically states that children aged 14 and under should not be locked up unless they have committed a grave offence or have committed a serious offence and are deemed to be a persistent offender’. Unfortunately, this does not appear to happen in practice, instead it would seem that there is a ratchetting up of punishment, leading to children being imprisoned for relatively trivial offences.
Although, most would agree that prison is necessary for violent criminals, it is difficult to imagine what the long term result of locking children up will be. Looking at the ongoing penal crisis and the continual problem of revolving doors, it seems likely that such a policy will simply feed the adult prisons of the future.