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Culture of violence against detention centre detainees revealed in new report

By David Greenwood

Published In: Child Abuse

I wrote in the ‘Inside Time’ prison newspaper in 2018 about the scale and brutality of the detention centre system in England and Wales.

Since then I have been contacted by many men who, as boys, went through the detention centre system and were subjected to violent treatment from prison officers. So far 119 men have contacted me describing physical assaults on an almost daily basis in detention centres.

By any standard this was torture. Boys were locked up with no chance of escape and to be subjected to indiscriminate violence from prison officers is torture and was illegal. The men who have contacted me have asked me to compile a report and to require the Ministry of Justice to hold a Public Inquiry into the routine brutality in detention centres in the 60s, 70s and 80s.

I will of course put together their recollections into a report but I need your help in adding to the report. If you were assaulted by staff in a detention centre please write to me outlining your experiences.

As part of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (a national inquiry into historical abuse in England and Wales) the inquiry has set up The Truth Project which hears from people abused in childhood and has noticed this phenomenon too. 47 of the people who spoke to them complained of being assaulted in a detention centre. Their key findings published on 23rd April 2020 mirror mine:

  • A culture of punishment contributed to a brutal environment, with survivors reporting being kicked, beaten, caned, having their testicles squeezed and being slapped around the head,
  • The power and control exerted by the perpetrators meant they did not need to groom their victims, who could not escape the abuse,
  • Perpetrators acted with impunity, and little was done to actively protect children,
  • Survivors suffered extensive, long-term harm to their education and employment prospects, mental health, social and sexual relationships.

Something I have heard hundreds of times over the years is that this brutality caused a feeling of alienation from society. Boys lost trust in authority figures and became anti establishment. It turned them away from constructive life paths onto a negative life trajectory. I want the government to recognise the harm this violent culture did to boys. I want a Public Inquiry and a redress scheme to give men affected a helping hand.

If you or someone you know has similar complaints please get in touch.

The detention centres I have studied are Medomsley, Eastwood Park, Whatton, Send, Kirklevington, Fosten Hall, Portland, Buckley Hall, Stoke Heath, New Hall, Flockton, Glenochil, Werrington House, Woking, Haslar, Polmont, Blantyre House, Usk, Axwell Park, Glen Parva.

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David has worked in the legal sector for 30 years. He is a Solicitor, Director and Head of Switalskis' Child Abuse Compensation department.

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