Fatally Flawed: Has the state learned lessons from the deaths of children and young people in prison?

This new evidence-based report examining the experiences and treatment of children and young people who died in prison custody in England and Wales is published by INQUEST and the Prison Reform Trust. ‘Fatally Flawed: Has the state learned lessons from the deaths of children and young people in prison?’ is an in-depth analysis of the deaths of children and young people (aged 18-24) while in the care of the state. 

Following the death of Joseph Scholes, a 16 year old boy who died at Stoke Heath Young Offender Institution in 2002, there was widespread public and parliamentary concern and calls made for a public inquiry.

That inquiry never took place and since Joseph died on 24 March 2002 to the day the report was published, 24 October 2012, nine children and 191 young people aged 24 and under have died in prison or, in the case of two of the children, imprisoned in a secure training centre.

The report, commissioned by the Prison Reform Trust as part of its Out of Trouble five year programme to reduce child and youth imprisonment, supported by the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund, is based on the unique dataset compiled by INQUEST through its specialist advice and casework service, supporting the families of children and young people through the investigation and inquest process. In particular, the experiences of 98 children and young people who died between 2003 and 2010 are looked at in detail, forming the basis for the findings and recommendations contained in the report.

For the first time, this analysis reveals the systemic failings that have contributed to some of the deaths of young people aged 18-24. Often overlooked and neglected in a regime that does not differentiate between young adults and adults, there is little institutional understanding of, or attention to, their specific needs.

Too often ‘tough’ talk about crime and punishment does not result in the authoritative action needed to rectify the flaws in our criminal justice system. This system and services in the community, whose failures are described in the report, have demonstrably let young people down, for all the wrong reasons, for far too long. I wholeheartedly endorse this report’s final recommendation that an independent review be established, with the proper involvement of families, to examine the wider systemic and policy issues underlying the deaths of children and young people in prison.”

Lord David Ramsbotham, former Chief Inspector of Prisons