National strategy for young offenders urged by welfare charity

The Michael Sieff Foundation has called for the development of a
national co-ordinated strategy for young offenders that will keep
young people out of prison and prevent re-offending,
writes Clare Jerrom.

The welfare charity believes a new approach is needed because
the current system of locking up young offenders is not working –
three out of four young men currently re-offend within two years of

“Instead of the present failing incarceration system, a
welfare-centred approach is needed, recognising that many of the
11,600 young people up to the age of 21 in prison come from violent
or neglectful homes, from local authority care, and are often
emotionally disturbed and without basic education and job skills,”
said Lady Elizabeth Haslam, founder of the Foundation.

 “We know key factors for going straight are a stable home and a
steady job, so any strategy for reducing further offending needs to
combine them as an in-built, clear cut purpose,” said Haslam.

The strategy should be focused on protecting the child’s human
rights and be in place during and after custodial sentences, she

It should also include access to independent advocacy services
and personal mentors for young prisoners in custody and also
post-release in the community. Local authority chief executives
should set up pilot regeneration projects providing stable jobs and
accommodation for young offenders on release.

The foundation calls on ministers to address popular
misconceptions about young offenders and for research to be
undertaken into areas such as why young people re-offend, what
works in preventing re-offending and how best the education system
can help ‘at-risk’ children.

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