Protesters up and down the country have taken to the streets, and a broad-based coalition has come together to fight the Tory government’s proposed Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. Groups have united against the authoritarian bill through which the Tories intend to crackdown on our right to protest, increase police powers, and criminalise Traveller communities and rough sleepers.
However, one disturbing element of the bill seems to have gone under the radar – government plans for ‘secure schools’. Concerned by this, the Coalition for Anti-Racist Educators (CARE) took to social media to shed light on what the proposed draconian bill will mean for youth ‘justice’.
The bill proposes to make setting up and running a secure school – in which children and young people will be held captive – a “charitable activity”. It also proposes harsher sentencing and additional surveillance of children and young people who are in trouble with the law.
What are secure schools?
Secure schools are part of the government’s plan to reform the UK’s youth justice system. Autonomous trusts will run these ‘schools’. The Ministry of Justice will have oversight, not the Department for Education. If implemented, the bill will “ensure that operating a secure school can be a charitable activity”, and encourage new “charitable” providers to expand the youth carceral state. The government claims that “secure school providers will take a child-focused and trauma-informed approach to youth custody”.
CARE highlighted that these plans will criminalise children and fail to deal with the root causes of their trauma. It also set out that secure schools will essentially be “a rebranded version of Young Offenders’ Institutions”:
Secure schools have been snuck into the policing bill… Yet another sinister way in which the government would rather pump money into locking people up, in this case children, instead of dealing with systemic social issues that cause trauma in the first place #KilltheBill pic.twitter.com/72xTs2Gpky
Read on...Support us and go ad-free
— CARE2Liberate (@CARE2Liberate) April 4, 2021
Setting out the dangers in the government’s secure schools model, No More Exclusions community organiser Jamal Khan shared:
Secure schools will be used to show that they’ve done everything they can to prevent crime/reoffending.
To shift blame onto the individual and divert attention from their own hesitation to improve the environment of the individual (4/7)
— Jamal Khan (@1JamalKhan) April 5, 2021
Author Lisa Cherry echoed this, saying:
A 'trauma' lens invites us to look at structural inequalities, inequity and social structures. A 'mental health' lens locates the problem within the individual as something that sits inside them, that the individual has. This narrative is everywhere I look. This must be resisted.
— Lisa Cherry (@_LisaCherry) April 6, 2021
Streamlining the UK’s school-to-prison pipeline
Oasis Charitable Trust’s new secure school will be situated where the Medway secure training centre once stood. The former centre has a long history of harrowing allegations of child abuse and mistreatment which were ignored for years. Raising concerns about the government’s focus on autonomy in its plans for secure schools, children’s rights charity Article 39 said:
Abuse suffered by children in secure training centres was *not* due to G4S & Serco managers having too little freedom. Yet autonomy is "key to the vision" for secure 16-19 academies (secure schools rebrand). This from Police, Crime, Sentencing & Courts Bill Explanatory Notes ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/EpdTAWLK2X
— Article 39 (@article_39) April 3, 2021
As Zoe Luba wrote in 2020, “Secure Schools are just one element of racial capitalism, locking up Black and other kids of color at vastly disproportionate rates.”
— CARE2Liberate (@CARE2Liberate) April 4, 2021
Quoting Zahra Bei’s response to the government awarding Oasis Charity Trust with the contract to run the UK’s first secure school in 2019, Labour MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy tweeted:
“the policy of rebranding youth jails as 'secure schools' provides a thinly veiled disguise for what in essence marks the start of the biggest children’s prison expansion programme in Britain.”
— Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP (@BellRibeiroAddy) April 5, 2021
Visualising the school-to-prison pipeline that plans for secure schools will help streamline, Kids of Colour director Roxy Legane shared:
Viewed as problem ➡️ non issue ➡️ behaviour hub ➡️ definitely now viewed as a problem ➡️ more hub time ➡️ more hub than class time, what a pain for us ➡️ exclude them ➡️ OH! Medway secure [prison] school 2022, thanks Oasis! ➡️ FFS they’re old now ➡️ prison
— Roxy Legane (@RoxyLegane) April 8, 2021
Kill the Bill
Other changes to youth justice in the proposed bill include harsher sentences and further surveillance of children and young people who are in trouble with the law. And it will likely be disproportionately used against children and young people who are already over-policed and under-protected. Namely children from Black and ethnic minority backgrounds, those eligible for free school meals, and children with special educational needs.
The government’s proposition to lock up children in the name of “charity” is yet another reason why we must continue to fiercely fight against the draconian bill.
Featured image via Paul Birrell/Wikimedia Commons
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?