The cut off age for services to young offenders should be
increased from 21 to 25, according to the new chief inspector of
prisons, writes Clare Jerrom.
In an interview with Community Care, Anne Owers claims
Britain should be brought into line with other countries, where
they regard young offenders as being aged up to the
“All the evidence is that the pattern of offending continues to
peak in the early 20s, and the point of real change for anyone is
the mid twenties, so actually we’d like to see this approach
moving up the system,” said Owers, who took over the role from
David Ramsbotham in August.
“I certainly think the cut off point of 21 doesn’t
necessarily reflect the developmental stage, because you have a
huge mixture of people, who are at different stages of maturity,”
The change in cut off age would also bring young offenders in
line with care leavers, whose services can continue beyond the age
of 21. This would ensure the work of the prison inspectorate would
reflect that of social services.
Owers places changing the cut off age as one of her medium term
priorities while she is chief inspector of prisons: “I would be
disappointed if we hadn’t started looking beyond the 20 cut
off point for young adults generally up to the age of 25.”
A more immediate aim high on her agenda for 2002 is to make
“significant improvements” to the services for young offenders aged
18 to 20. She describes the group as “impoverished” and lacking
The former director of human right organisation Justice
describes scenes where offenders in this age group spend 18,
sometimes 23 hours a day in their cells “without nearly sufficient
The criteria for a “healthy prison” are that prisoners should be
safe, treated with respect, they should have purposeful activity
and should be prepared for resettlement.
Owers believes she has inherited a climate where the government,
Prison Service and Youth Justice Board place greater emphasis on
purposeful activity and resettlement and the system for 15 to 17
years old is leading the way.