Welcome to the Machine: Child Remand Prisoners and the Limits of Custodial Reform in England and Wales

Barry Goldson, University of Liverpool

Within a context defined by reactionary penal politics, populist punitive policies and widespread moral panics in relation to juvenile crime, the number of incarcerated children in England and Wales has reached unprecedented levels. Throughout the final decade of the 20th Century, and into the opening decade of the 21st, state policy has ushered in a sequence of correctional measures which have combined to provide the courts with ever-increasing powers to condemn sentenced and unsentenced children to locked institutions. More recently, the New Labour government, through the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales, has invested substantial resources to 'humanise' the treatment and conditions of child prisoners. Recalling Stan Cohen's observation that 'by making the system appear less harsh, people are encouraged to use it more often', this paper will subject this reform effort to critical inspection. Moreover, by drawing upon recently completed primary research within youth prisons across England, the limits of custodial reform in respect of unsentenced children will be outlined, and the incivilities of child incarceration will be re-exposed.

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Updated 05/20/2006