Frequently Asked Questions


About deprivation of liberty


What is "deprivation of liberty"?

Deprivation of liberty includes any form of detention or imprisonment where a person is not allowed to leave at will. It covers all settings where children might be detained, whether as punishment for a crime, because of their immigration status or where the child’s family are unable to provide care.

Why does child detention matter?

Children in detention are among the most vulnerable in the world. Held in prisons, immigration centres, care institutions and military facilities, they face violence, abuse and neglect. Because of the closed nature of these facilities, much of this ill-treatment remains hidden. Even where detention is of the most humane standards, the disruption to the life of a child exacerbates the problems that children already face, whether social exclusion, disruption of education or damage to employment prospects. Even where detention is designed with the aim of rehabilitation of children who have committed criminal offences, research has time and again demonstrated the ineffectiveness of locking children up, compared to non-custodial measures.

Not only is detention a failure, it is an expensive failure. It costs an estimated £178,000 (or $236,000) per year to detain a child in a “secure training centre” in the United Kingdom. This staggering sum could, if invested early, pay for a first rate education and early intervention to provide support for schools, families and social workers dealing with minor offending by children before it becomes more serious.



The Study


Why does the Study matter?

We know the harm that the detention of children can cause. From the child refugees locked up for fleeing armed conflict to children with disabilities who grow up in closed institutions because there is no support for them to live with their families. We know that these practices can cause life long harm, yet we don’t even know for certain how many children are locked up around the world or where they are held. The Study can change this. It will bring together experts across the world, from the UN and governments to NGOs and leading academics. It is an opportunity to draw on this expertise to find out about the situation of children in detention, how to protect their rights and how to improve their lives.

Why don't we know this already?

There is a great deal of information available on children detained in certain contexts and in some countries.  We know more about children detained in prisons, for example, than we know about those held during armed conflicts. Similarly, we know quite a lot about children detained in countries with high levels of economic development, but very little about the situation in countries that do not have well-developed infrastructure. The Study aims to fill these gaps by being truly global - focusing on the situation of all children detained in every country for whatever reason.

How will the Study change things?

By bringing together all of the organisations and experts working on the issue of children who are detained, the Study creates the opportunity to bring about change around the world. The research phase will unearth progressive and creative ways of reducing the detention of children. The recommendations that come out of the Study can create the impetus for reform by setting out meaningful and effective alternatives to detaining children as well as how to protect the rights of children who are detained.

Advice and support


The NGO panel for the global Study is made up of a network of organisations working nationally and internationally on the issue of children deprived of liberty. You can find the full list of the organisations and the countries they work in on the website of the panel. Children’s Ombudspersons and Children’s Commissioners can also be a good point of contact for help nationally. A list of these organisations and their websites is available on the CRIN website.

Other questions?