Focus: Child Incarceration

While some of the issues have been scratched in the small time of this blog, I feel it is naive to continue without focusing on one specific area at a time.

With this in mind, I have decided to focus the coming posts on the issue of Child Incarceration.

England and Wales have the lowest age for criminal responsibility in Western Europe, at 10 years old. They also have the highest rates of child incarceration.

The subject of youth punishment and incarceration carries its own debates and issues, on suitable punishment, restraint and responsibility. As prisons get ever closer to capacity, rehabilitation for the young must form some priority.

My research will follow.


A Prisoner’s Point Of View

One English Prisoner has decided to document his feelings, ideas and experiences in a blog as he lives out his sentence.

His name is Ben, and his blog offers an inside view of the prison system, thoughts on reform and some other abstract thoughts, inevitable when on the inside. He even comments on the laws and changes in the ‘outside world’ with his most recent post commenting on the government proposals to record all electronic communications (e-mail, phone etc). In this post, Ben voices his discontent at people losing their freedom. (See below for full post)

Ben has been in the prison system since he admitted the murder of his friend at the age of 14, but has served much longer than the recommended 10 years. Michael Gove spoke out for Ben saying that he has been excessively punished for a crime he committed as a child. Ben has educated himself whilst in prison, through school and has gained a degree to post-graduate level.

Ben is an active individual, to the extent that he can be, whilst on the inside. He has become the Editor of the prison magazine, which as yet has not been printed, an issue plagued by censorship. He also has taken on charity work outside the prison.

A very interesting read, from a viewpoint that had in previous years not been possible to see and understand. In fact, it is the only blog by a British serving prisoner. Certainly one that makes a strong comment on the effectiveness of the prison system, and a rare chance to experience a prisoner’s thoughts.

You can read the blog here.

His latest post:


Wed 18th april

When the same Government who support a move away from “European” human rights towards “British” rights suddenly appear on my TV insisting that they should have the ability to trawl and record all electronic communications made by 65 million citizens, it must make some of us pause.
For a smaller – but far more significant – number of people such an monstrous outrage must prompt the question –  just what does a government have to do to its citizens before the people have a justifiable urge to wage war upon that government?
I cannot imagine this disgusting proposal for total State surveillance being made in any other Western democracy without the proposer either being fired or laughed away. In Britain, though, we give this proposal headspace and media coverage. Nobody takes to the streets.
Having got nowhere in the Orwell Prize this year I must quash my misery and point out what George told us so many years ago. “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face -forever”.
We get the government we deserve. And given the British people’s incredible ability to become mere suspects for State surveillance whilst simultaneously believing in “British freedoms” then the government they deserve is just the one that abuses them in such a way.
This is one of those political moments which will shape the course of my future life and attitudes. I am deeply angry; not just at the government but at the apathetic voters who will allow this contemptible policy to become real. I’m not quite sure which party I find more deserving of challenge – the policy makers or the saps who sit back and allow them to weave their web.
Shame on us. Shame.

Early Day Motion 2595

A campaign is currently being passed around Parliament in favour of community sentences. The Early Day Motion 2595 has gained 34 signatures from MPs and is supported by the Howard League for penal reform.

The campaign aims to replace short-term sentences with community work, in the belief that prison fails to rehabilitate or prevent further crime.

Community sentences cost around a tenth of what it costs to send a person to prison for a year, and so with severe budget cuts looming and prison populations rising, a solution must be sought.

Aside from the benefit of lower costs, community sentences have proved to be far more effective at reducing re-offending rates and ‘offer a proportionate response to relatively minor offences in comparison to short-term prison sentences which often result in loss of employment, family breakdown and homelessness’.

You can read the full motion HERE.

The Howard League is urging members of the public to write to their MP, and get them to support the campaign.

To find out more, or use one of their pre-written templates visit

Overseas: ‘Can Food Be A Cruel And Unusual Punishment?’ – 02.04.12

Here is an article on the ‘Nutriloaf’ – a meal served in some prisons in America. After making several inmates ill for days after eating it, the food may be declared ‘unconstitutional’. The Milwaukee prison that dished it out said the Nutriloaf was a ‘nutritious substance for regular meals’ and yet is unwilling to pass on the recipe.

Read the full article here.