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Children in care 10 times more likely to end up in prison by age 24, figures suggest

CHILDREN in care are 10 times more likely to end up in prison by the time they reach 24 than those who grew up outside the system, official figures suggest. 

The study by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published today found that looked-after children were more at risk of coming into contact with the criminal justice system during early adulthood than their peers. 

Looking at children in care who were born in the academic year ending 1994, the ONS found that more than half had received a criminal conviction by the time they turned 24. 

This compares to 13 per cent of children who were not in care.

The ONS noted that imprisonment following a conviction was rare, but it found that one in seven children in care had received a custodial sentence — 10 times the proportion of kids outside the system. 

Prison reform campaigners said the figures show more needs to be done to address the criminalisation of children in care.

Howard League for Penal Reform director of campaigns Andrew Neilson said: “The links between care and criminalisation have long been a concern. 

“In 2016, the disproportionate criminalisation of children in residential care was exposed by the Howard League, and our work led to these children being three times less likely to be criminalised, showing that progress is possible.

“Academic research has shown that each contact a child has with the criminal justice system drags them deeper into it, leading to more crime. Children in care need nurture and support, not repeated contact with the police. 

“While the majority of children in care do not end up in prison, we must do more to address their criminalisation. Every child deserves the opportunity to thrive and realise their potential without being held back by a criminal record.”


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