My first visit to a YOI was a few years ago around Christmas time. I had been invited for the annual Carol Service. I arrived early and awaited the youngsters, to be honest I wasn’t sure what to expect. 10 minutes later they started to file into the Chapel, followed by almost as many members of staff.
Dressed in plain ill-fitting sweatshirts and mis-matched jogging trousers, goodness knows how many times these clothes had been passed on, there was no pride in their appearance as they were dressed in basically clothes you would sling on. My heart went out to these children who were deemed too dangerous to be in society and therefore locked up. What a pitiful sight!
Some joined in with the singing of carols but most stood up and looked bored and dejected; a few smiles came afterwards with the juice and chocolate biscuits. Others were fascinated with the musical instruments which were left out so they could have a try; this gave me chance to talk to them. I remember one lad told me he was 13 years old and hadn’t had a Christmas outside some sort of institution for 5 years. I didn’t ask why they were there; I didn’t want or need to know.
I wanted to hear laughter and chatter but most of these children were fairly quiet and expressionless!
There has been a lot in the media about children locked up, new contracts signed by companies that have dubious methods and terrible treatment.
I applause the Howard League for their tireless campaign to close down prisons for children…
Yes kids need boundaries, yes they need to be taught what is/isn’t appropriate behaviour but is a prison really the place to learn these principles?
I don’t think so.
I’m well aware how some children can be a problem to society but surely we don’t help as we put in so many unnecessary rules and regulations. How about the signs such as “no ball games” “no-skateboarding” and “keep off the grass” around where we live?
Kids need stimulus; they are inquisitive and like to push boundaries. Often the kids in prison have had a difficult past; often they have been victims themselves and have had to survive.
For those that think prison is right for kids then try spending time in one!