The UK stopped the “routine strip-searching” of adult women prisoners in 2009, but are still using this method on under-aged children daily.
Two years ago, the UK Youth Justice Board announced that “the routine strip-searching of incarcerated children would stop,” but according to recent information obtained by The Guardian, that promise has not been kept. A freedom of information request has actually shown,
43,960 children were made to strip naked in 25 young offender institutions (YOIs), secure children’s homes (SCHs) and secure training centers (STCS) in the 21 months up to December 2012. The youngest person to be strip-searched was 12. Nearly half – 48% – of children strip-searched were from black and ethnic minority communities. Physical force was used on children being searched 50 times … in only 275 searches were illicit items found … Tobacco was the most common item found, with no recorded discoveries of drugs or knives.
Carolyne Willow, the formal national coordinator of the Children’s Rights Alliance England made the request for the information after concerns were raised over what she has called “institutionalized child abuse.” Children who have been strip searched have reported feelings of “anger, humiliation and anxiety.” One 16-year-old girl told authorities, “”When I had my first full search it was horrible as I have been sexually abused and I didn’t feel comfortable showing my body as this brought back bad memories.” Willow has said,
This matter is of such magnitude that ministers must amend the rules governing secure establishments to prescribe the extremely limited circumstances in which it would ever be permissible to make children in institutions remove their clothes and underwear.
A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said that a “revised searching policy” for youth was instituted in March, 2012, that “ensures their safety and security while not subjecting them to a full search unnecessarily.” She said in a statement that,
Full searches will only take place when it is necessary and there is a clear justification or identified risk. We have a duty to keep any item that could endanger the safety of young people out of secure establishments. We use a number of measures to disrupt their supply and searches are an important part of this.
However, based one the information obtained by Carolyne Willow and published by The Guardian, it would seem that “full searches” have been “deemed necessary” more often than not.