Prison is not an appropriate environment for children, and penal systems hardly ever take into account the specific needs of minors. Children in custody face the risk of physical and emotional abuse, neglect, and of torture and ill-treatment, from prison staff as well as other children or prisoners.
While detention should only ever be the last resort, when children are deprived of their liberty, this measure should be accompanied by, at the very least, robust safeguards against violence and abuse.
Regular inspection and monitoring by independent bodies of detention facilities in general is essential in order to ensure adequate detention conditions and to prevent ill-treatment. As children are less able to fight for their rights themselves, this is even more crucial for facilities where children are held.
Detention monitoring helps to:
- prevent violence against children
- identify and remedy risk factors of abuse and inadequate detention conditions
- recommend changes needed in policy, practice and legislation
- bring good practice to light
- protect detention facility staff against unfounded criticism
- hold those responsible to account for what happens to children in their detention facilities
- raise public awareness of the issue of children in detention and give children who are held in detention a voice.
The importance of independent detention monitoring in general has been recognised in international law. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has clarified that regarding children in detention: ‘independent and qualified inspectors should be empowered to conduct inspections on a regular basis and to undertake unannounced inspections on their own initiative; they should place special emphasis on holding conversations with children in the facilities in a confidential setting.’
The Committee has also emphasised that the special status of children in detention demands either a separate monitoring body or special arrangements within an existing body to reflect the specific nature of and gravity of rights violations they experience (General Comment No. 10).
What we do
We work collaboratively with UN and other international and regional bodies to promote the establishment of robust independent monitoring bodies, and to support them in their mandate to uncover and remedy abuse and ill-treatment of children in detention.
- We raise awareness of the importance of independent monitoring of places where children are deprived of their liberty.
- We develop resources for policy-makers, prison authorities, and members of inspection committees on the best way to undertake inspections.
- We support the establishment of independent monitoring bodies for places where children are held in custody, see for example, in Jordan.
- We also conduct research. For example, in 2014/2015 we produced two survey reports which examine conditions and treatment of children in closed institutions in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan and make recommendations to strengthen oversight of institutions where children are deprived of their liberty.