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Global Study on Children Deprived of their Liberty

Lanyon cool clouds july2018

Laura Lundy, Siobhan Mc Alister and Michelle Templeton partnered with Terres des Hommes and colleagues from University College Cork to lead a global consultation with 274 children deprived of their liberty in 22 countries. The study employed the unique child rights-based research methodology developed at our Centre for Children's Rights to ensure that the views of children experiencing deprivation of liberty in a range of settings and varied global contexts were integral to the study and its recommendations to the world's governments. This included seeking the views of children with experiences of immigration, youth justice, orphanages and other institutions, and also those detained in the context of armed conflict and national security. The study findings are based on a further 12 regional and thematic consultations, questionnaires requesting data from every UN member state, a comprehensive reviews of literature on the subject and additional research by expert groups. Professor Manfred Nowak, a UN independent expert, launched the study to the UN General Assembly in New York in October.

Key findings from the report:

  • At least 410,000 children are held every year in jails and prisons, where violence is “endemic.” Many are charged with “status offences” that are not criminal offences for adults, including truancy, disobedience, and underage drinking.
  • Deprivation of liberty aggravates existing health conditions in children and can cause new conditions to emerge, including anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, and post-traumatic stress.
  • Psychiatric disorders for children in detention can increase tenfold during detention, and detention is correlated with early death among children once released.
  • At least 330,000 children in 77 countries are held in immigration detention each year.
  • Children with disabilities are significantly overrepresented in detention in the context of administration of justice and institutions.
  • The number of children detained in the context of armed conflict and national security has increased sharply, driven by aggressive counterterrorism measures including detention and prosecution of children for online activity, e.g. posts on Facebook and Twitter.

Key recommendations from the report encourage UN members to collect reliable and systematic data on children deprived of liberty and to create national action plans aimed at reducing the number of children in detention and/or eliminating the detention of children. The UN General Assembly is also encouraged to formally designate a UN entity to lead follow-up efforts. Read more at