Martin Partington: Spotlight on the Justice System

Keeping the English Legal System under review

Transforming Youth Custody: new Government Consultation

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The Government has just published a consultation paper on how youths detained in custody should be handled. While the total numbers of such youths have declined in recent years, those that remain detained have very high rates of re-offending and do a lot of damage to the communities in which they live.

Government figures show:

  1. In the 12 months to June 2012, 3,645 of all young offenders sentenced received a custodial sentence, 94% of whom were boys. Over half of these were 17 years old.
  2. According to the latest reoffending statistics for 2011/12, 73% of young offenders reoffended within a year of leaving custody, compared to 47% of adults leaving custody.
  3. The youth secure estate currently consists of three different types of detention including Young Offender Institutions (YOIs), Secure Training Centres (STCs) and Secure Children’s Homes (SCHs).  In 2012/13 the Youth Justice Board expects to spend approximately £245 million on the detention of young offenders:
    • A place in a Secure Children’s Home costs an average of £212,000 per annum
    • A place in a Secure Training Centre costs an average of £178,000 per annum
    • A place in a Young Offender Institution costs an average of £65,000 per annum.
  4. YOIs are contracted to deliver 15 hours of education per week, though this is not frequently achieved.  Of 15-17 year olds entering YOIs, half were assessed as having the literacy levels of a 7-11 year old; of 15-17 year olds 88% of young men and 74% of young women had been excluded from school. 18% of young people in custody (under sentence) had a statement of special educational needs, compared to 3% in the general population

The Government rightly regards this as unacceptable. In this new Consultation Paper, the Government seeks views on its idea that education should be placed at the heart of the managements of young offenders. While educational opportunities are already available in young offender institutions, the Government argues that education should be at the centre of the philosophy and practice relating to the treatment of young offenders.

Of course, the Government hopes that a new approach might also save money. But where costs currently run at up to over £200,000 a year to manage someone with a very high risk of reoffending, what is currently on offer does not look like value for money.

The Consultation runs until the end of April 2013. It is not yet clear exactly what shape final reform will take. much will depend on whether these proposals are seen as ‘soft on crime’ or bringing new discipline to often rather chaotic and unhappy lives.

I think the Government makes a persuasive case for change. What do you think? To read the consultation go to https://consult.justice.gov.uk/digital-communications/transforming-youth-custody

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Written by lwtmp

February 15, 2013 at 11:17 am

Posted in Chapter 5

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