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Concern from BASW Criminal Justice over first Secure School

Both the BASW Criminal Justice; and Children and Families; Practice, Policy and Education Groups (CJ and F&C) are most concerned to read that the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is to establish the first Secure School at the establishment built at Medway in Kent and formerly used as a Secure Treatment Centre.

The MoJ is also calling on “… parties interested in running this facility… to serve notice of their intent by the 7th November”.

“Our opposition is multi-faceted,” says Francis Boylan, Chair of BASW CJ PPEG.

“We are opposed to the philosophy underpinning Secure Schools; regarding it as a return to the thinking of the 1920’s which led up to the establishment of the Approved Schools - a system found to be ineffective and modified in the nineteen sixties.”

Recent detailed studies of children in secure settings have highlighted long term, multi-generational family deprivation, and failures of care, education and mental health services.1

The notion that these grossly emotionally damaged children will be able access the educational opportunities of the Secure Schools within the limited time provided by what are essentially short term incarcerations2 is difficult to comprehend.

Irrespective of that, where are to be found educators/therapist capable of establishing the essential relationships with these children, necessary to enable them to achieve their goals.

A second factor is far simpler: Medway Secure Treatment Centre was designed and built as a custodial setting, simply thinking that cosmetic changes can alter the initial impact that it is anything, but a prison would be an illusion.  The establishment also has a “history” and for institutions, that is extremely hard to change.

Thirdly, the site is too far from London, from where the PPEG’s imagine the bulk of the children would come. It is firmly established that proximity to family is a key factor towards a successful post release outcome.

The fourth objection is more of a question, what criteria will be used to allocate children between the four different types of secure care currently available for children? Which children will go into Secure Children’s Homes, which will be housed in Secure Treatments Centres which children will be allocated to Young Offenders Institution and which will be deemed suitable for Secure Schools?

“The Association is acutely aware of both the current short fall in secure places for children in Secure Children’s Homes – the number of 30 plus was recently cited by a High Court Judge3 – and the failures of our present systems and would be most interested in discussing further how we can better help the children, which as a society we are clearly failing.”

 

References:

1 Contested Vulnerability: A Case Study of Girls in secure care.  Children and Youth Services Review 88 (2018) 156-163, and Voices from the Inside. The experiences of girls in Secure Training centres. The Children’s Commissioner. March 2018.

2 57% of all custodial episodes for children ended within 3 months and 2/3rd of Detention and Training Orders ended within 3 months. YJB/Min of Justice Length of time spent in Youth Custody, 26thApril 2018.

3Contained in a judgement by Judge Lazarus, sitting at the Family Court Bromley Thursday 4th October 2018. Case number ZC18COO536.