My rights if I am in detention

  • You should only be sentenced to detention in the most serious cases, and for the shortest amount of time possible
  • While you’re in detention, you still have all your children’s rights to protect you and help you
  • If you are treated unfairly while you are in detention, or think that your rights have been breached, you can complain

Detention means that you won’t be allowed to go home after you have been to court, and will go to a Youth Offenders Institution, a Secure Training Centre or a Secure Children’s Home.  If you’ve broken the law, the court should only give you a sentence that involves ‘detention’ in the most serious cases.

It may feel as if your rights are being taken away if you end up in detention. It’s true that detention takes away a lot of your freedom, so that you can’t put your rights into practice as often as you might like. You might only be able to see your family on certain days, and there will be restrictions on what you can do. But you still have your rights under the UNCRC, so you shouldn’t be treated differently or less fairly to anyone else in detention. You should be allowed to keep in touch with your family, and to have access to education and healthcare. You should have your language and family traditions respected. You shouldn’t be made to do anything that will damage your health and your development.

Can I see my family?
As long as you want to see your family, you should be able to while you are in detention. Visits from your family might be limited to certain days or times, depending on where you are. Members of your family can apply for financial help to cover the costs of visiting you. Different rules apply depending on whether you are in a Young Offenders Institution, a Secure Children’s Home or a Secure Training Centre. Find out more here.
Will I be able to carry on with school?

Your right to education is one of the children’s rights that stay with you even though you’re in detention. Whether you’re in a Young Offenders’ Institution, a Secure Children’s Home or a Secure Training Centre, you should continue your education, and be able to get qualifications. Your detention may only be for a short period of time, so you should be in a position to be able to go back to school once it’s over. If you will be looking for work once you come out of detention, the more qualifications and skills you have, the better.

What happens if I am poorly?

As with education, your right to good quality healthcare doesn’t stop because you are in detention. Whether you are physically ill or mentally ill or vulnerable, you should receive the treatment and support you need to recover.

How will I be treated in detention?

You should be treated with respect. You should be protected from violence and abuse by the people caring from you – it is never acceptable for you to be treated badly, so if something is wrong, you should tell someone. This could be your legal adviser or solicitor, or someone who you trust – perhaps a teacher who works with you or another member of staff. You should have healthy food, and access to good healthcare, and you should be able to carry on with your education.

Different types of Youth Detention Accommodation have different rules and work differently. If you’re in a Secure Training Centre (STC) or a Secure Children’s Home, you may be there with children who haven’t been sent there by a court. They may be there because of other problems they are facing.

A Youth Offender Institution (YOI) is most like an adult prison.

Whether you are in a YOI or an STC, there are rules in place so you know how you can expect to be treated, and how you are expected to behave. Even though you are in detention, your rights as a child still apply, although they have to be seen in the context of your sentence.

You can find out more about the rules in a YOI and the rules on an STC here.