Self-harm and reluctance are increasingly common in juvenile justice, according to government figures, which also show a record proportion of juvenile children from black, Asian and ethnic minorities.
The government’s annual youth justice statistics, released Thursday, show that more than half of youths detained are black, Asian, or ethnic minority (BAME). This situation was called a “national scandal” by Shadow Justice Secretary David Lammy.
The numbers show a significant increase in the general use of pain relieving restraint techniques since 2018-19. The number of restrictive physical interventions (RPIs) rose 19% over the past year to approximately 7,500 incidents. The number of incidents of self-harm in children’s prisons rose by 35% to around 2,500. For both measures, this was the highest number of incidents in the last five years.
The number of serious injuries to children as a result of self-harm has also increased: in 2019-20 there were 627 injuries requiring medical treatment after self-harm, of which 69 required hospital treatment (up from 39 in 2018 -19) .
In total, there were almost 7,800 incidents of violence in the three safe training centers and five juvenile offender facilities – an average of 82.5 incidents per 100 children and young people per month.
Carolyne Willow, director of the Children’s Rights Charity, Article 39, said the use of techniques that inflict pain on children “is a stain on our child protection system. If adults who deliberately harm children are wrong in families, schools, and children’s homes, so must be wrong for children in prison. We cannot have a two tier child protection system. “
The number of BAME youths who were warned or convicted increased. Compared to 2018-19, there were 10% more Asian children who were cautioned or convicted. That makes Asian the only ethnic group to see an increase over the past year.
The proportion of warned or convicted black children has increased in the last 10 years and is now twice as high as in March 2010 (12% compared to 6%). Over the same period, the average prison sentence for children has increased by more than seven months, from 11.3 to 18.6 months.
“It is a national scandal that more than half of young people incarcerated are from black, Asian or ethnic minorities,” Lammy said. “Instead of denying the reality of structural racism, it is time for the government to finally behave like a matter of black life.”
Last month, Gender Equality Secretary Liz Truss suggested that claims of structural racism in Britain were “evidence-free”.
A Justice Department spokesman said, “We are working across governments to address the deeply rooted causes of the over-representation of BAME children in the criminal justice system – including hands-on work to distract and better support frontline judicial services.”