Due to the atrocious conditions these children are exposed to in these prisons, and the problem they have in trying to adjust to their new settings, a majority of them start engaging in self-harm. As they have been intimidated, and bullied they begin to feel unworthy, and alone, and the only way they can express their anger is by harming themselves "the profiles of the intentionally self-injuring young offenders suggest that for most observers they were trying to adapt to more difficult circumstances" Towl (2006).
Although, the courts, and legal staff are aware that number of these children are a high risk of self harm, and that it is impossible for staff to be able to constantly watch over them, they were still admitted to institutions, even though they were a high risk "A number of cases, some quite high profile cases involving children, where judges were well aware of the high risk of suicide and self harm that those young people presented but chose to ignore it and sent them to establishments knowing that it was impossible for the prison staff to properly care for those young people given the high levels of disturbances they presented" (Coles, Volume 1: 39:2004/5).
Suicides of children in prison is a major concern, and is more common than is thought, as they are very rarely publicised by the media, as Goldson and Coles argue "It is difficult to comprehend how 29 children could have died in penal custody without a single public enquiry into any of the deaths and, in most cases, little more than a murmur of public debate and media interest" (Goldson and Coles, Howard League Magazine: 2005). This illustrates how these children are thrown into these institutes by the state, without a care of their well-being, or the state of mind they are in when incarcerated, and excluded from everything, and everyone they know "prisoners who attempted suicide were far more likely than those who self injured to report being motivated by the factors that include: homesickness, hopelessness, and negative feelings" (Snow, 2002: 89).
Another problem these children have to face on a regular basis is sexual abuse "Incidents of sexual abuse of juveniles in custody are reported at a rate 10 times higher than the rate in adult corrections" Corrections Library (http://www. nicic. org/Library/021504). This abuse is carried out either by other, older inmates, or the officers looking after them "many reports of sexual abuse of juveniles by both prison staff and other inmates were received" Kinnear (2007). When these children speak out about this abuse it is usually ignored, or in some cases get beaten up for talking about it "members of the prison staff beat a thirteen year old boy for complaining of sexual abuse by the head warden" (Human Rites Watch 1999). It is beyond belief that these children suffer so much at the hands of such animals, and are unable to talk about it for fear of their life.
Locking up children also affects their emotional well-being, and traumatises them mentally in the long term, as psychiatrists working with these children stressed " long stays in security are detrimental to an adolescent's emotional development" Millham et al (1978). They are also made to feel different by staff members, lose their characteristics, and become stigmatised as a criminal "detention in prison remand conditions is reinforcing poor self-image and delinquent identity" Stewart and Tutt (1987). There is also the emotional fulfilment of a child. A child needs to feel loved, by his/her family, and be able to express love back, but due to lack of communication with their family while they are incarcerated they feel awkward in expressing their feelings.
Family visitation is also not applied often enough for these children "the main areas for boys complaints are the extent of time spent alone… insufficient home leaves, and a lack of visits from family and friends" Millham (1978), whether criminal or not, these children need frequent contact with parents, siblings, and friends to enable them to be able to fit back into the society they left when imprisoned. As it is found, that occasionally due to them being locked up for a substantial amount of time, they no longer wished to pursue contact with their parents " In effect, some boys lost all contact with their natural parents and, in a much larger percentage than probably imagined, lost all desire to continue or re-open parental contacts" Mayers (1980).
This is extremely worrying as to when they are released; there is no help and support for them, in which they strongly need to ensure they refrain from re-offending. Education is one of the most important processes of growing up, but unfortunately, the institutions children are subjected to, cannot provide adequate learning for these young people. According to the Guardian "more than 300 schoolchildren in prison are not receiving the education they need" (Guardian). This is due to the lack of funding, and teaching qualifications available to the institutions. A survey undertaken by the Howard League found classes frequently cancelled in some prisons, and teachers lacked qualifications required to educate these children.
They visited thirteen prisons holding boys and spoke to a third of all fifteen year olds. Before being sent to prison, a quarter of them had been studying for GCSE exams. A fifth had special educational needs, and over a third were unable to read or write properly (http://web. ukonline. co. uk/howard. league/). Prison was not offering any special help to the boys who had a problem with reading or writing, and offenders who had been previously studying for their GCSE's at school were unable to continue with their work. The ones with special needs did not receive any extra support; this could suggest why there is a link to young offenders and dyslexia. Reconviction rates for children leaving prison are also very high.
"The reconviction rate within two years for children aged 14 to 17 year olds was 80% in 1999" Smart (2006). During their stay in institutions, these children are in constant contact with older more professional criminals, who have been in and out of these institutions for years, and it is from these skilled offenders that the young, vulnerable children are taught how to become professional thieves, and burglars. Tremendous violence in these institutes have also become dreadful as reported by the Chief Inspector of Prisons "I have never had to report such a horrendous number of reported injuries to children and young people" (Independent, 4th April: 2001).
Maybe, this is the reason the children released from these institutes come out more violent than when they went in, as they learn to fight inside in order to protect themselves, and their possessions. After discussing the topic of children in prison, it is perceived that it is very damaging to lock up our children. The effect of incarceration in relation to crime is ineffective to reducing re-offending, as they are in constant contact with more professional criminals on a daily basis. When inside, these children go through so much abuse, and bullying, the experience stays with them forever, causing psychological and mental problems. It affects the social, and family life; if regular contact is not fulfilled they come out feeling alone and isolated, and sometimes homeless, causing them to commit crime.
Children, when brought up in environments where the developmental needs are not met result in learning and developmental delays, as you can see from above, these needs are not met in these institutions. Young people in prison have had significant experiences of trauma and instability in their lives, including sexual abuse, bullying, and attempted suicides. It is now up to the government to realise that locking up children is not the appropriate way to treat them. Something has to be done to ensure that no more children go through these ordeals, as the experience stays with them forever, causing psychological, and mental problems for the rest of their lives.