More than 70 per cent of people think the government’s youth
crime policy is failing, according to a survey carried out for
Community Care, writes Clare
The research conducted by NOP found that almost nine out of 10
people thought there should be a greater use of community
punishments for children who offend. Sixty per cent believed it was
wrong to send young people to prison for non-violent crimes.
Mark Ivory, acting editor of Community Care magazine
said the survey revealed a crisis in public confidence in the
government’s policy. “The government’s crass
solution to youth offending seems to be ‘lock them all
“This is obviously not working since despite an increasing
number of young offenders being placed in custody, the problem is
getting worse not better,” he added.
Community Care is campaigning for a dramatic reduction
in the number of young people incarcerated and for children to be
given community sentences instead.
The research, carried out as part of our ‘Back on
Track’ campaign, found that almost three out of four people
think that young people with mental health problems should not be
sent to prison. Almost 60 per cent think that prison sentences
increase the risk of self-harm and suicide among young people.
Ivory highlighted that nine out of 10 young people in custody
have mental health problems. “It is outrageous that these
vulnerable young people are kept in unacceptable conditions in
young offender institutions”.
The research also highlights concerns that deaths of children in
custody are not investigated sufficiently. Nearly 30 people have
died in prison since 1990 and nine out of 10 people think there
should always be a public inquiry when a young person dies in
The ‘Back on Track’ campaign is calling for an
immediate end to humiliating practices of strip searching and the
inappropriate use of control and restraint. We would also like to
see a greater provision of services (in custody and the community)
for young people who offend who are in need of treatment for mental
health problems, drug or alcohol abuse.