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Detention Centres

Volume 933: debated on Thursday 16 June 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he is satisfied with the present régime in detention centres.

Within the current constraints on manpower and expenditure, régimes in detention centres continue to operate satisfactorily, but they are kept under review.

Does the Minister of State recall that the original idea of the detention centre was that it should offer a short, sharp shock to the offender? Does he agree that there are certain types of offender for whom that is a particularly appropriate means of treatment and will he consider restoring to the régime in detention centres something that will provide a brief treatment in a disciplined environment for offenders such as hooligans and vandals.

I would not have thought that the régime in the centres was a free and easy one. The nature of the régime is to give positive treatment, with strong emphasis on social training, so that people committed to these detention centres do not re-offend.

Does my right hon. Friend accept that the régime, indeed, the whole philosophy of the detention centres is not conducive to the rehabilitation of the individual offender? Can he say what progress is being made in implementing the legislative commitment to phase out the junior detention centres, and when he expects to be able to implement it?

The Advisory Council on the Penal System, which produced the Bishop of Exeter's report, laid strong emphasis on the rehabilitation of the offender in order to prepare him for life in the community after leaving a centre. I am bound to say that at the moment there is little possibility of the phasing out of junior detention centres, in view of the constraints on resources.

For the benefit of the House will the Minister of State clarify what is the essential feature of a detention centre that differentiates it from a prison?

It is precisely preparation for full-time education in junior detention centres and full-time work in senior detention centres, and preparation for life thereafter.