A Super Prison for Children and Young People : Outcome of an Authoritarian Ideology



Thanks to Lilian Pons for drawing our attention to this latest expression of the authoritarianism at the heart of the Coalition’s neo-liberal mind-set.

‘Branded a ‘secure college’, the government is planning to build one of the largest children’s prisons in Europe. At a cost of £85 million, they plan to coop up 320 troubled young people on a single site. Children’s prisons are violent and dangerous environments which fail to turn lives around and threaten public safety.

Young people who end up in the criminal justice system have a whole host of complex needs, from backgrounds of abuse or neglect to poor educational attainment. All evidence shows these problems can be tackled through effective community sentences. They are never resolved behind the walls of a huge prison.

The very small number of children who truly require custody should be held in very small secure homes, focused on their complex welfare needs.

Read more here – U R BOSS is a project led by young people for young people that is part of the Howard League for Penal Reform.

We are asked to sign the No to Children’s Super Prison petition.


  1. Interesting reading and on reflection I am disappointed with the outcome of the consultation process and the result of the collective voices that contributed their thoughts about this.

    It is difficult to imagine how a ‘super prison’ would benefit young people, help with social skills or reduce custody numbers. Community orders and small secure units are proven to work better than custody and this secure training college will be a big investment which I personally feel will create problems for young people and they may find rehabilitation into the community more difficult, resulting in re-offending.

    I was working within a youth offending team and was involved in a consultation process with young people and youth offending team staff last February in relation to ‘Transforming Youth Custody: Putting education at the heart of detention’ which was a government paper.

    I feel that this process asked the minimum questions on the vision for this kind of establishment and it was hard for young people to understand what this would be like and how it would benefit them.

    The following Information describing the questions, can be found on: https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/transforming-youth-custody [online 2014]

    The consultation paper covers:
    • key information on youth custody and the young people held there;
    • the case for change;
    • our vision for Secure Colleges which place education at the heart of the system.

    The main areas for consideration by all respondents are:
    • tailoring education to young people in custody;
    • meeting the wider needs of young people in custody;
    • closing the gap between custody and community;
    • the physical environment and meeting demand;
    • a focus on outcomes.

    This is not what was expected during the consultation phase, the impression was that young people would get more education and certificates, work based training and secured jobs and support when they leave custody.

    My personal concerns are that young people will not get the correct levels of support, there are problems within Young Offenders Institutions (YOIs) and this seems to be just another one of those on a larger scale, who will teach? will this be teaching staff commissioned to work with young offenders in an educational way? What kind of support will be in place for young people in relation to resettlement and how will all of this be paid for? I feel the whole thing is very brief and there is not much attention to detail or how this will work in practice.

    Another concern is that more secure training Centres / units will close to fund this and it could mean there is no alternative to prison or a community order.

    I hope that more information on the details will follow, but it appears to me that this is going ahead regardless of how young people and those working with them feel about this.



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