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Obligated to act - Witter blames fathers, State for children's woes

Published:Sunday | February 14, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Public Defender Earl Witter says his office, by law, must investigate any matter relating to the incarceration of children.

Blaming the plight of jailed youngsters on the failure of parents and Government, Witter said his office would become interested if children were being held in a way that was degrading or inhumane.

"It is unacceptable that children should be incarcerated. It exposes them to perils and influences that would do nothing to enhance their safety or rehabilitation," he said.

According to the public defender, successive governments' neglect has turned prisons and lock-ups into places that are not conducive to rehabilitation but actually "aggravate the problem". He also said children are supposed to be held in correctional facilities designed for them, and there is to be no interaction between young defenders and adults.

"Fathers are the root cause of the problem facing incarcerated children," he said. "If parents acted responsibly and exposed their children to the kind of love and loving care a parent can give, a far fewer number would get in trouble with the law and require state intervention."