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The fusion of young people to the prison setting has been described as a toxic combination. This is especially pertinent when applied to youth in remand custody. Previous research studies have identified young people on remand as a highly vulnerable prison population and custodial remand to be a particularly stressful prison experience. Despite this, little research to date has examined how young people cope while remanded in custody. This thesis addresses this gap by providing an insight into the issue of coping on remand through the voices of young people in custody in the Irish context. It is informed by an interactionist theoretical framework which proposes that human behaviour consists of interactions between individual and environmental factors. The thesis employs an exploratory research design and incorporates a multi-method approach consisting of an observation study in the Children Court and the use of semi-structured interviews and standardised instruments with 62 young people aged 16 to 21 detained in custody in three remand settings. The findings reveal a major contradiction in terms, between the non-punitive concept of remand and the actual experiences encountered in the Irish context. Youth on remand are a forgotten population who are exposed to a particularly punishing and stressful experience which restricts their coping actions. This results in a high level of coping difficulty not only during the remand period but also on release or transfer to sentenced custody. The detrimental impact of remand indicates that remand custody should only be used as a measure of last resort and for a minimum duration of time. The majority of young people on remand would be better served by the development of alternatives to custodial remand, in particular bail support and supervision schemes which allow them to remain in the community. The implementation of change to the current remand environment and regime is also vital for the small number who pose a threat to public safety and must be detained a measure of last resort. Central to this reform, is the recognition of young people on remand as a distinct prison population by policy-makers, service providers and researchers and the implementation of separate, tailored facilities and activities which effectively meet their coping needs and respect their fundamental right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
Freeman, S. (2009) Surviving on Remand: A Study of how Young People Cope in Remand Custody in Ireland. Doctoral Thesis, Dublin Institute of Technology, doi:10.21427/D72W2J