This article explores critically the relationship between international human rights standards and the practices of child imprisonment at a global level. Four key issues are afforded close attention: the separation of child and adult prisoners; the provision of ‘child appropriate regimes’; the protection of child prisoners’ rights and the operation of independent complaints and inspection mechanisms. We argue that there is manifest tension between international human rights standards and the practical realities of child imprisonment. Whilst we recognise the vital potentialities of the human rights standards – to pacify the more problematic excesses of child imprisonment – we also remain cognisant of their practical limitations and reserve a sense of scepticism in respect of the concept of ‘rights-based approaches’ to the penal detention of children. Ultimately, we challenge the legitimacy of child imprisonment and recommend its abolition.
See P.S. PinheiroWorld Report on Violence Against Children (Geneva: United Nations2006); A. Piquero ‘Disproportionate minority contact’ Future of Children 18(2) (Fall 2008): 59–79; J. Hayes & G. O’Reilly Emotional Intelligence Mental Health and Juvenile Delinquency (Cork: Juvenile Mental Health Matters 2007); B. Goldson ‘Child incarceration: Institutional abuse the violent state and the politics of impunity’ in The Violence of Incarceration. eds. P. Scraton & J. McCulloch (London: Routledge 2009) 86–10. UNICEF Justice for Children: Detention as a Last Resort Innovative Initiatives in the East Asia and Pacific Region (UNICEF 2011).
Irish Penal Reform TrustDetention of Children: International Standards and Best Practice (Dublin: IPRT2009). See also Irish Penal Reform Trust PRT Briefing: Detention of Children in St Patrick’s Institution (Dublin: IPRT 2011).
Ombudsman for Children (2006) Advice of the Ombudsman for Children on the Proposed Changes to the Children Act 2001 pp. 19–21. On the specific circumstances of detention in St Patrick’s see Ombudsman for Children Young People in St Patrick’s Institution A Report by the Ombudsman for Children’s Office (Dublin: OCO 2011).
In August2012the last 16-year old was released from St Patrick’s Institution. See Cormac O’Keefe ‘Call to speed up release of 17-year-old boys from jail’ Irish Examiner 7 August 2012 at http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/call-to-speed-up-release-of-17-year-old-boys-from-jail-203294.html.
B. Goldson & J. Muncie‘Towards a global ‘child friendly’ juvenile justice?’International Journal of Law Crime and Justice40(1) (2012): 47–64.
See for example: F. FarrantTroubled Inside: Responding to the Mental Health Needs of Children and Young People in Prison (London: Prison Reform Trust2001); B. Goldson Vulnerable Inside: Children in Secure and Penal Settings (London: The Children’s Society 2002); R. Harris & N. Timms Secure Accommodation in Child Care: Between Hospital or Prison or Thereabouts? (London: Routledge 1993); Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons Young Prisoners: A Thematic Review by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons for England and Wales (London: Home Office 1997); D. Lader N. Singleton & H. Meltzer Psychiatric Morbidity among Young Offenders in England and Wales (London: Office for National Statistics 2000).
See for example: B. GoldsonA Sense of Security: Curricula for the Induction and Training of Staff in Secure Accommodation (London: National Children’s Bureau1997); P. Gabbidon & B. Goldson Securing Best Practice (London: National Children’s Bureau 1997).
See for example: B. AbramsonJuvenile Justice: The ‘Unwanted Child’ of State Responsibilities. An Analysis of the Concluding Observations of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in Regard to Juvenile Justice from 1993 to 2000 (Brussels: International Network on Juvenile Justice/Defence for Children International2000); Defence for Children International From Legislation to Action? Trends in Juvenile Justice Systems Across 15 Countries (Geneva: Defence for Children International 2007); B. Goldson & J. Muncie ‘Towards a global ‘child friendly’ juvenile justice?’ International Journal of Law Crime and Justice 40(1) (2012): 47–64; U. Kilkelly ‘Youth justice and children’s rights: Measuring compliance with international standards’ Youth Justice: An International Journal 8(3) (2008): 187–192; J. Muncie ‘The punitive turn in juvenile justice: Cultures of control and rights compliance in western Europe and the USA’ Youth Justice: An International Journal 8(2) (2008): 107–121.
Greece - CPT/Inf (2010) 33p. 58. For further general discussion on this issue see: Burman & Batchelor ‘Between two stools? Responding to young women who offend’ Youth Justice: An International Journal 9(3) (2009): 270–285; All Party Parliamentary Group on Women in the Criminal Justice System Inquiry on Girls: From Courts to Custody (London: The Howard League for Penal Reform 2012).
Cyprus - CPT/Inf (2008) 17p. 31. Committee on the Rights of the Child Concluding Observations: Latvia CRC/C/LVA/CO/2 para. 62.
Ireland - CPT/Inf (2011) 3p. 25.
Netherlands - CPT/Inf (2008) 2p. 38. For a fuller discussion on the general issue see: B. Goldson A Sense of Security: Curricula for the Induction and Training of Staff in Secure Accommodation (London: National Children’s Bureau 1997); P. Gabbidon & B. Goldson Securing Best Practice (London National Children’s Bureau 1997).
Austria - CPT/Inf (2010) 5p. 34.
Lithuania - CPT/Inf (2009) 22p. 28 and p. 18 in respect of police detention; Montenegro – CPT/INf(2010) 3 para. 114.
Latvia - CPT/Inf (2009) 35p. 44.
United Kingdom – CPT/inf (2009) 30p. 47.
Ireland –CPT/Inf (2011) 3para. 32.
Latvia - CPT/Inf (2009) 35p. 25.
B. Goldson & D. ColesIn the Care of the State? Child Deaths in Penal Custody in England and Wales (London: INQUEST2005) 28.
The Lord Carlile of Berriew QCAn Independent Inquiry into the Use of Physical Restraint Solitary Confinement and Forcible Strip Searching of Children in Prisons Secure Training Centres and Local Authority Secure Children’s Homes (London: The Howard League for Penal Reform2006) 61.
R. MendelNo Place for Kids: The Case for Reducing Juvenile Incarceration (Baltimore: Annie E. Casey Foundation2011) passim 5-25. See also B. Goldson ‘Child Imprisonment: A case for abolition’ Youth Justice 5(2) (2005): 77–90.