Child Incarceration: The statistics.

To begin research in this area, here are some of the most recent statistics on child incarceration in England and Wales:

From Prison Population Statistics – House Of Commons Library – Feb 2012

At December 2011 there were:

–       1444 juveniles in prison – Juveniles are aged 15-17 years

–       Of these 1444, 250 were awaiting trial and 85 were awaiting sentence

–       268 12-15 year olds in privately run secure training centres (STC)

–       158 12-15 year olds in local authority secure children homes (SCH)

England and Wales has a Youth Justice System (YJS) which aims to monitor youth offending and reduce the number of young people under the age of 18 offending and re-offending.

Their report, published in January 2012 said:

–       The number of people in the YJS has reduced in the last few years.

–       Since 2007/8 there are 55% fewer young people coming into the system.

–       Since 2000 re-offending by young people has reduced 17%

–       10-17 year olds accounted for 17% (241,737) of all arrests in 2009/2010

–       There were 39,407 youth cautions given in 2010/2011

–       There were 176,511 proven offences by young people in 2010/2011 and 45,519 were first time entrants to the YJS

“While the overall rate of re-offending has remained broadly stable the number of young people in the re-offending cohort has gone down, with particular reductions among those with no previous offences and those receiving pre-court disposals. Because of this, those young people coming into the criminal justice system are, on balance, more challenging to work with. This is reflected in the higher predicted rate of re-offending and the higher average previous number of offences for each young person.”

                                                Youth Justice Statistics, 2012, Executive Summary

The YJS also monitor ‘risk factors’ in children. This would represent any added difficulties that may be associated with re-offending e.g. substance abuse, living arrangements. Those young people with more risks re-offended more often: 34% with 0-2 risks re-offended compared with 81% of those with 11-12 risks reoffended. This is why some of the children coming into the system may be more challenging to work with, despite an overall reduction in young offenders.

Prison Population Statistics report can be found in full HERE

Youth Justice Statistics report can be found in full HERE

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Early Day Motion 2595

A campaign is currently being passed around Parliament in favour of community sentences. The Early Day Motion 2595 has gained 34 signatures from MPs and is supported by the Howard League for penal reform.

The campaign aims to replace short-term sentences with community work, in the belief that prison fails to rehabilitate or prevent further crime.

Community sentences cost around a tenth of what it costs to send a person to prison for a year, and so with severe budget cuts looming and prison populations rising, a solution must be sought.

Aside from the benefit of lower costs, community sentences have proved to be far more effective at reducing re-offending rates and ‘offer a proportionate response to relatively minor offences in comparison to short-term prison sentences which often result in loss of employment, family breakdown and homelessness’.

You can read the full motion HERE.

The Howard League is urging members of the public to write to their MP, and get them to support the campaign.

To find out more, or use one of their pre-written templates visit howardleague.org

Re-offending.

The cost of keeping one inmate in prison for one year is £40,000+. It’s pretty staggering, and probably more than what a lot of people pay for their own living. Of course you can’t put a price on security, and punishment is essential for those that take the law into their own hands. But for £40,000 you would also hope that the best steps are taken to prevent future offending. Sadly, this doesn’t seem to be the case. 80% of under 21 year olds who have been to prison re-offend within two years. The figure is 70% for those over the age of 21.

If there is a solution or a way to improve these figures, I can only imagine that there has never been a better a time to begin implementing them, as prisons are crowded more than ever.

Restorative Justice: Panorama Special

An interesting and relevant programme which is available to watch was aired last week; Panorama: Meet The Burglars.

The programme is about a new scheme for offenders called Restorative Justice. The government has backed it, and it is now used by police at their discretion. Victims are able to meet face to face with their burglars in an attempt to give victims a chance to ask questions, as well as allow the offender to show remorse and understand the impact of their actions.

The scheme, lead by Remedi, also allows the victims to feel empowered, as they help to decide what sort of community service or punishment they would like to see. In one case during the programme, one victim reveals that she only wanted to meet her offender to kill him and take revenge after the violent ordeal she was put through. Upon meeting him, she realised that the offender ‘wasn’t worth it’ which put her anger to rest.

The implementation of this action comes with its own complications. The first issue is with the voluntary intent of both the victim and the offender. Director of Remedi, Steve Jones says that it is imperative to keep the approach voluntary because as soon as the actions are forced, or communication is forced, it ‘potentially damages the integrity of that information…It should be about truth’.

Secondly, the worry is that crimes of a more serious nature that should be referred to court will be settled with a light punishment.

These seem to be simple precautions that need to made with good judgement. As this is a different response, as opposed to the usual straight to court route, it greys the normal black and white approach. Which is a good thing.

Positives:

  • When using Restorative Justice, victims are 40% less symptomatic of post-traumatic stress.
  • Police are able to tackle situations with less paperwork and wasted time.
  • The Criminal Justice Service saves money every time a meeting for Restorative Justice goes ahead.
  • And, because the re-offending rates are lower after Restorative Justice, even more money is saved.

Unfortunately, the programme also highlights a lack of funding for the scheme, despite its positive results.

Watch the programme here.