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Junior Detention Centres

Volume 977: debated on Thursday 31 January 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department who has been or is being consulted about the planned new regime of short, sharp shock treatment at several junior detention centres.

Staff organisations concerned have been invited to discuss the planning of the project and a meeting has been held with the Prison Officers Association. The education authorities of Surrey and Wakefield have been offered meetings about the educational aspects of the regime. The services concerned are being consulted about arrangements for after-care supervision.

Is the Minister aware that there is a great deal of concern about this scheme, including among the staff of the prison service? Is he also aware that there is a difference between regimes that are tough and those that are degrading to the individual? Will he make the results of any representations available to hon. Members?

I have no reason to suppose that there have been great pressures against the scheme from the staff, as the hon. Member suggests. I believe that many staff welcome the idea. As for the regimes, I have no intention of making them degrading and I am quite determined that this shall not happen.

Is the Home Secretary aware that many of the staff at penal establishments are bitterly opposed to the introduction of the scheme? Does he not consider it unfair that, as the experiment will be applied only to two geographical areas of the country, individual boys who have committed the same crime will, in effect, get a different sentence depending on whether they are to be sent to Send detention centre or New Hall or another detention centre? Is that not unfair? Also, is it not inappropriate that there will be no screening of those who are physically tough or mentally unable to take the tough, sharp, short shock?

There will be screening—I make that absolutely clear to the hon. Member. Naturally, the intake into these centres will be based upon geographical location—that is inevitable. If, as I confidently believe—and Labour Members seem determined that this will not happen—these regimes are a success, there will be wider opportunities for other centres throughout the country.

Is the Secretary of State aware that the regime at Send detention centre is already extremely strict? In what new way will the regime there be made more harsh and rigorous? Will the staff be specially selected and trained so that they become experts in inflicting a short, sharp shock?

No, that will not be the case. There will be considerably more drill than in the past. I do not accept that the system was particularly harsh. There will be significant changes and they will come to light when the regimes come into operation.