‘Schools with Security’: Pitfalls in Pursuit of the Penal Detention of Children in Ireland and England

AuthorNigel Stone
Published date01 December 2021
Date01 December 2021
Subject MatterLegal Commentary
Youth Justice
2021, Vol. 21(3) 338 –349
© The Author(s) 2021
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/14732254211037097
‘Schools with Security’: Pitfalls
in Pursuit of the Penal Detention
of Children in Ireland and England
Nigel Stone
When any state committed to a distinctive child-centred approach to youth justice responds
to proven juvenile offending by deprivation of liberty it has to determine how to marry
penal provisions with individualistic considerations, seeking to ensure that it promotes the
child’s maturation without compounding the developmental problems and adverse life
experiences that are likely to have contributed to the detainee’s offending. The quest for a
suitable model within the United Kingdom in the past century has embraced the ‘public
school’ (i.e. fee-paying, private sector residential school) ethos as the inspiration for the
Borstal system (Warder and Wilson, 1973)1 and the ‘short sharp shock’ boot camp
approach of detention centres in the mid-20th century, blending quasi-military discipline
with physical fitness and deterrence, revived as the ethos for youth custody as a populist
gesture by the first Thatcher government in 1979 but evaluated as a failure (Muncie, 1990;
Thornton et al., 1984) and serving in one prominent instance as a context for physical and
sexual abuse by staff.2
A hybrid of these approaches, coupled with an emphasis on industrial training, served
as the ethos for the ‘approved school’ system introduced by the Children and Young
Persons Act (CYPA) 1933 (s.79) as an institutional resource by court order both for young
offenders and for children deemed beyond parental control. These were replaced by local
authority-run, more quasi-parental but often neglectful or even wretchedly abusive ‘com-
munity homes’ through CYPA 1969 which also introduced the now notoriously unfair
‘criminal care order’ (s.7(7)(a)), empowering the open-ended detention of children up to
age 18 in the perceived interests of their welfare needs, irrespective of offence-serious-
ness considerations, until abolished by the Children Act 1989.
More recently the compassionate enlightened schooling model has been winning
renewed favour, an unsurprising step given what is known of the blocks to learning and
the low educational attainment evidenced by so many children who offend (see Ministry
of Justice (MoJ)/Department for Education (DfE), 2016). This Commentary seeks to
Corresponding author:
Nigel Stone, School of Psychology, University of East Anglia, Lawrence Stenhouse Building, Norwich NR4 7TJ, UK.
Email: n.stone@uea.ac.uk
1037097YJJ0010.1177/14732254211037097Youth JusticeStone
Legal Commentary

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