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September 2010

Punishing Disadvantage: a profile of children in custody

In England and Wales in 2010 there are over 2,000 children in custody at any one time. Over a quarter have not been convicted. Half of those convicted are sentenced for non-violent crimes. Children who commit crimes are sometimes depicted as callous monsters.

This study uncovers the real circumstances and backgrounds of children in custody. It analyses the nature of the crimes they have committed and assesses the disadvantages they face in terms of family and home life, mental health and education. The results mirror those of 1984, and beg the question: why are we still condemning the most socially excluded and deprived children to imprisonment?