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Ending violence against children in custody

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Presentation on theme: "Ending violence against children in custody"— Presentation transcript:

1 Ending violence against children in custody
Headline findings from research with children and young people Carla Garnelas Head of Policy and Public Affairs Children’s Rights Alliance for England Talar Torossian Young Investigator Cyprus

2 This presentation... Introduction to the project Methodology
Headline findings and recommendations Next steps Talar’s experiences as a young investigator Any questions?

3 About the project Funded by the European Commission’s DAPHNE III fund (all content is sole responsibility of partners) Coordinated by Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRAE) Five partner organisations: Austria Ludwig Boltzman Institute Belgium International Juvenile Justice Observatory Cyprus Children’s Commissioner for Cyprus The Netherlands Defence for Children International-ECPAT Romania Save the Children Romania

4 This project aims to support and empower children and young people with direct experience of custody to campaign for violence-free custodial settings. It is focused on the direct testimonies of children and young people with experience of custody and provides a platform for them to campaign for change.

5 United Nations Study on Violence against Children (2006)
Background Despite the existence of a comprehensive international framework, pan-European regulations and domestic legislation in EU Member States there is significant evidence to suggest that children are regularly subject to violence within custodial settings. Violence against children while in justice institutions… is more common than violence against children placed in institutions solely for the provision of care. Although there are many overlaps and similarities… the institutional treatment of children regarded as being anti-social or criminal is likely to be more physically and psychologically punitive that that of other groups or in other environments. United Nations Study on Violence against Children (2006)

6 Aims and objectives The Ending Violence against Children in Custody project aims to make progress towards ending violence against children and young people in custody through: Carrying out legal and policy analysis Supporting children and young people to conduct research with children and young people with experience of custody and seek their views on how violence in custody can be ended Supporting children and young people with experience of custody to campaign for change Influencing decision-makers and the custodial workforce.

7 The project is based on the definition of violence found in Article 19 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which guarantees every child the right to protection from physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse.

8 Project timeline Research phase: desk-based legal analysis of the rules governing custody and interviews with children and young people Campaigning phase: young people develop their own campaigns based on the recommendations from their research. Currently finalising consolidated investigation report – highlighting pan-European findings and common recommendations Five partners in campaign phase, working with young campaigners

9 Methodology: Desk-based legal analysis
All partners conducted a desk-based study of law, policy and practice into: The use of force Violence against children in custody Mechanisms for access to justice IJJO conducted a study of law and policy at international and European level relating to children in custody and violence against children in custody

10 Methodology: Research with children and young people
Five partner organisations recruit up to ten Young Investigators to form Young Investigation Team (YIT) YIT members trained in research skills, have input into final interview questions and supported to carry out interviews with children and young people with direct experience of custody. Some interviews conducted in custody, some in the community YIT members involved in drafting final report including recommendations.

11 Challenges in research phase
Different juvenile justice systems across the partner countries Limited pool of young people with direct experience of custody Recruiting/maintaining contact with young people Difficulties in gaining access to custodial settings Not able to carry out research in all settings – impact on findings Would have liked longer to build up relationships with participants in focus groups Different juvenile justice systems across the partner countries – different ages (of criminal responsibility), different rules governing when, why and how a young person should be locked up and different types of institutions. Differences to the extent to which there is a distinct system for children, or whether young people are generally part of the main youth justice system and held with adults. Limited pool of young people with direct experience of custody – it was agreed between partners that we would extend the age up to 22 as long as the young people had experience of custody when under-18. Recruiting/maintaining contact with young people – needing to be creative and needing to work around and be aware of young people’s circumstances, many of the partners had trouble contacting the young people – meetings had to be rescheduled several times, young people have quite chaotic lives - Netherlands – recruited using facebook and a Dutch social networking site: very successful in terms of getting interest from young people - Cyprus – Children’s Commissioner contacted children and young people who had made a complaint to the Office of the Children’s Commissioner whilst in custody to inform them about the project - England and Austria: YIT members recruited from young people living in custodial settings and supported to interview peers Difficulties in gaining access to custodial settings - differing levels of support from authorities – lengthy waits to get permission, interviews often postponed/cancelled (all partners) - restrictions from custodial settings in terms of external young people coming into conduct interviews and many settings wanting staff to be present during interviews (this was particular issue in England) Not able to carry out research in all settings – impact on findings: acknowledge that we only spoke to a small sample of young people and were not able to get access to all custodial settings. Example: in England we mainly spoke to young people with experience of being in a secure children’s home – these settings are probably the best (most positive) in terms of violence, so certainly need to think about this when presenting findings Perhaps needed more time to set up interviews, work with young people and explain what project was about - In some countries there was resistance from parents to their children participating in the interviews (Cyprus) Limited pool of young people with direct experience of custody Recruiting young people Not able to carry out research in all settings – impact on findings in terms of how representative findings are

12 Demographics 120 children and young people were involved in the research phase of the Ending Violence against Children in Custody project across the five European countries 21 young people as members of Young Investigation Teams: Gender: 15 Male, 7 Female Age: years-old 99 young people as participants in focus group interviews or 1:1 interviews: Gender: 90 male, 9 female Age: years-old

13 Interview settings Austria: interviews in a juvenile detention centre and in pre-trial custody Cyprus: interviews in the community with young people who had previously been in custody and in prison with young people currently serving a custodial sentence England: interviews in Secure Children’s Homes, a Young Offender Institute and in the community with young people who had previously been in custody Netherlands: interviews in three youth custodial institutions Romania: interviews took place in a re-education centre, a juvenile prison and a prison-hospital.

14 Research questions Questions agreed by all partners and used in all focus groups/1:1 interviews 15 questions including: How do they define violence? When does violence occur in custody? How do people respond to violence in custody? Messages to people in charge.

15 What is violence? Violence is an abuse of power
Violence includes a range of physical acts Violence can also be verbal or emotional Bullying and racism can be forms of violence Growing up with violence makes it “normal” for some young people Some children and young people regard punishments in custody as forms of violence: for example solitary confinement or basement imprisonment Participants in all of the interviews were asked what they considered by the term “violence”. In the majority of the interviews across the five partner countries, the interviewees defined violence as acts that involved physical force and described the range of forms that physical violence could take. When asked to define “violence”, interviewees in Romania explicitly said that violence was an abuse of power. They said that they thought that violence was the intentional use of physical force or power against another person that results in, or is likely to result in injury, death, psychological harm or deprivation. In Cyprus, interviewees defined violence as physical force and degrading behaviour. Some of the interviewees in the Netherlands found it hard to provide a single definition of violence and disagreed on what they considered by the term, however there appeared to be general agreement that violence often included physical acts. Many of the young people also stated that violence could take other forms such as verbal and emotional violence and several said that they explicitly considered bullying to be form of violence. Some young people also considered racism to be a form of violence. In England, several interviewees said that they felt that police officers often employed racist bullying as a means of threatening and humiliating young people. A number of interviewees said that violence often felt “normal” as it was something they had grown up with – others did not agree with this position and felt that just because a person had grown up in a violent environment, violence was not “normal”.

16 Experiences of violence
Violence happens between young people and between young people and staff – young people talked about both kinds of experiences Violence is a common experience in custody There is a difference between violence in custody and violence outside – inside it is much harder to avoid, can’t get away from it Violence is caused by a range of factors including: people trying to assert their status and gain respect over other young people, anger, frustration, boredom, external gang conflicts, putting lots of young people together in a confined space, staff goading young people, unhappiness at being locked up, the crime a young person has committed (particular issue for sex offenders) Violence can escalate quickly in custodial settings Children and young people were particularly concerned by the use of force used by police in police vehicles, stations and cells and said that it was often worse than the force used by staff in custodial settings

17 Responses to violence Staff often intervene to stop violence and sometimes use force to do so Staff can sometimes intervene too quickly and with excessive force Staff sometimes do not intervene and let fights continue Young people often step in to calm a situation down – this can be very effective Levels of violence and the use of force by staff differs depending on the institution Young people do not think that talking to staff about violence will change anything (and can be considered “snitching”) The complaints system is not effective Individual young person-staff relationship is critical

18 Messages to people in charge
Take time to listen to young people and find out what has happened in their lives Stop violence by talking to children and young people Staff should be able to relate to young people and work with them well Positive relationships between staff and young people are critical and can help to reduce violence Bring in external people (ex-offenders) as role models that young people can relate to

19 Common recommendations
YIT members drafted recommendations for how to reduce violence in custody based on research findings. There were many common themes across the five country reports: Create a distinct, child –focused, youth justice system for children and young people Qualities of staff working in custodial settings More positive activities in custodial settings Better mediation and methods of resolving conflicts Police behaviour and the need for regulation

20 A distinct system for children and young people
Create safe, distinct and specialised prison facilities for children in conflict with the law (Cyprus) Find an alternative to prison for young people as it makes young people more violent and does not rehabilitate them (Austria) Reduce/eliminate the use of certain kinds of punishments and introduce very strict rules to regulate the use of force by staff (England, the Netherlands) Judges should think carefully about whether the sentences they are giving are appropriate, consider whether prison is right for that young person and take into account their circumstances, backgrounds and needs. (Cyprus, England, the Netherlands)

21 Employ people we can relate to
We want former prisoners to visit and talk to the young people - people with similar backgrounds and experiences to “us” as external mentors(Austria,, England) Employ people who like children and young people and can relate to them (England,Cyprus ) There must be specialised procedures for the selection of staff, screen staff properly (Cyprus, the Netherlands) Staff should have training on children’s rights, they could be trained by young people on how to respond to situations effectively (Cyprus, England) Staff need to develop positive relationships, based on trust with young people (the Netherlands, England) Be interested in the young person not their crime – don’t judge them (the Netherlands, England)

22 We need more to do Be pro-active, keep us busy and run lots of positive activities – this will reduce feelings of frustration and boredom (England) More sport and physical activity will calm people down and release pressure, we need more time out of our cells (Austria, Romania) Better quality and more useful education and vocational training with a greater range of activities on offer (Cyprus, Romania)

23 Better mediation and resolution of conflict
There needs to be more effective mediation between young people (Romania) Introduce more effective complaints mechanisms that young people can have faith in (Cyprus, the Netherlands) Talking should always be the first method of trying to calm down a violent incident – violence should be a last resort (England) Create opportunities for young people and staff to meet regularly to discuss problems and think about how to resolve them (Austria)

24 Challenge police behaviour
Need video surveillance of police to make them more accountable and regulate the way they behave when they come into contact with young people – CCTV with sound in police stations and vehicles (England, Romania) Police officers should be recruited who are child friendly and sensitive to issues related to children in conflict with the law. They should have specific training on children’s rights (Cyprus) More effective complaints mechanisms (Cyprus)

25 Next steps Publication of consolidated investigation report
Campaigning activity in five partner countries Country campaign reports Consolidated campaign report Children and young people’s versions of the investigation and campaign report Project end: 1 Feb 2013

26 Find out more... All reports will be available on the project website: Contact Carla Garnelas


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