England and Wales to ban ‘pain-inducing’ physical restraint against young offenders in children’s prisons News
England and Wales to ban ‘pain-inducing’ physical restraint against young offenders in children’s prisons

England and Wales banned the use of pain-inducing physical restraint last week in children’s prisons. Such techniques are to be “minimised and will only be used as a last resort where it is a reasonable, necessary and proportionate response” under a new framework which governs the operations of prisons in the UK. It will become effective in February 2024.

Charlie Taylor, His Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons, began a review in October 2018 into the use of certain pain-inducing techniques on young offenders. The use of restraint has a long-standing area of concern in the UK with human rights organisations such as the Children’s Rights Alliance for England, the Howard League for Penal Reform, Article 39 and the Children’s’ Commissioners for England and Wales consistently calling for such techniques to be outlawed.

The review concluded that there was a “completely unacceptable level of violence” across the youth prison estate and that “the frequent use of inappropriate restraint on children…cannot be justified in any framework”. It observed that restraint had frequently become the “default” way of managing behaviour with insufficient governance of its use. This is particularly as the current regime aims to minimise its use, instead becoming “acceptable” and a “normal response.”

The nonprofit Article 39, which fights for children’s rights in institutional settings in England, highlighted the long road to this reform when it stated on Tuesday, “Adults in uniform, working in groups, trained to inflict severe physical & psychological pain on children as young as 12. It’s taken nearly two decades to get these techniques removed as official forms of restraint.”

From March 2021 to 2022, there was 4,300 use of force incidents in the youth prison estate according to statistics from the Youth Justice Board.

An internal review of restraint techniques obtained by The Guardian in 2016 found that the consequence of their use could be “catastrophic, carrying a 40 or 60 percent chance of causing injuries involving the child’s airway, breathing or circulation.” Prison officers have continued to be trained in the use of pain-inducing techniques despite widespread condemnation. The methods involve the infliction of severe pain to the area below a child’s ear, thumb and wrist.

Recently, two UK police officers received lifetime service bans after allegations they used racial verbal abuse during arrests and excessive force when detaining individuals.