John spent his 16th birthday the same as every day during the UK’s Covid-19 lockdown – 23 hours alone in a cell, with no visits, no internet and no phone calls. He is one of hundreds of children incarcerated in UK prisons, forgotten victims of the pandemic.
“It gives you plenty of time to think and my thoughts are not always positive,” John tells his attorney Jude Lanchin on the rare occasion that she gets access to the prison’s video link service. “I’m struggling to sleep,” he adds.
In the UK, adolescents and children aged 18 and under are being held in government designated safe children’s homes, safe training centers and juvenile offender facilities. The CNN lawyers spoke of such institutions as prisons in general.
A CNN crew was allowed to watch Lanchin’s phone call to their client and has changed his name as restrictions on ongoing criminal cases involving children have been reported in the UK.
I get out 30 minutes a day and other than that I’m just in my cell just thinking, “says John.” There’s a lot of time to think about it, and it messes up your head a bit. “
The restrictions were imposed by the UK government as part of the Covid-19 lockdown. Visits have been temporarily suspended and time outside the prison cells has been reduced significantly. This is part of wider measures to enforce social distancing in prisons due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
These restrictions have left children like John in solitary confinement, according to several lawyers and experts CNN spoke to.
The United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, known as the Mandela Rules, define solitary confinement as 22 hours a day or more without meaningful human contact.
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