Letters - Prison's no place for children

Barnardo's would emphatically disagree with Angela Neustatter ("Prison can be the right place for kids", 19 August). By their very nature, prisons are punitive and repressive, and while there are some exceptions such as Huntercombe, most prisons further damage already damaged and vulnerable children. It should be remembered that 80 per cent of youth crime is non-violent and that prison can actually increase the risk of children becoming more entrenched in criminal behaviour; 85 per cent of children who serve a custodial sentence will reoffend within two years of release.

Pam Hibbert
Principal policy officer, Barnardo's
Ilford, Essex

Angela Neustatter fails to consider effective community alternatives. The new ISSPs (intensive supervision and surveillance programmes) offer serious and persistent offenders the education, training and reintegration into the community necessary to change their lives. The public is protected through 24-hour checks on their whereabouts.

Neustatter also misrepresents reformers, partly because she muddles children and young people, aged under 18, who appear in Youth Courts, with young adults aged 18 to 21. She takes the pusillanimous view, in the name of realism, that it is too expensive to keep children in secure units which offer the safeguards of the Children Act. Has she seen the figures that show how much less programmes in the community cost than prison, even the expensive new ISSPs?

Sarah Curtis
Youth Court magistrate, 1978-2001
London W8

This article first appeared in the 26 August 2002 issue of the New Statesman, Kill the licence fee