Young offender institutions are cruel and counterproductive. Cressida Dick’s call for ‘harsher’ sentencing reveals her ignorance of the evidenceIn 2003 I visited Feltham young offender institution for the first time. Freshly returned from death row in America, I was feeling smug about civilised Britain. I walked down a concrete corridor with no walls – just bars – the wind whipping through a derelict garden with a small pond where a plastic heron lay prone, beak down in the sludge. Then, an enormous, brightly lit visitors’ room with tables nailed to the floor, and in the corner a holding cell, three sides of which were glass, holding at least 10 children. None of them were talking.
I had never been in an environment so eerily quiet. Anyone who has spent any time in schools knows that kids are noisy. Yet here were 10 teenagers sitting together, and none of them had anything to say.
In this country, youth prisons create the perfect environment for children to fall further into criminality