Young adult prisoners are “languishing in a political and
policy vacuum,” in some of the most impoverished regimes in
the entire prison estate, a new report out today warns,
writes Maria Ahmed.
Research by the Howard League for Penal Reform has found that
prison is failing to tackle the needs of 18-20 year-olds or reduce
Nearly 70 per cent of young men who leave prison are reconvicted
within two years of their release, committing at least 8,500
offences every year, according to the report.
It also found that the majority of young men in prison come from
disadvantaged communities where offending is “endemic,”
with many having mental health and substance misuse problems, and
experience of being in care.
Nearly one in five young men were homeless before going into
prison or after release, while over half of young adults had not
been in work prior to prison.
Around one third of young men in prison were fathers or had a
pregnant partner or ex-partner.
One-fifth had been in some kind of care, and nearly half
reported mental health needs, with one in 10 saying they had
self-harmed, felt suicidal or had attempted suicide.
The findings are part of an ongoing research study involving
in-depth interviews with 86 young men, the majority of whom are
serving short-term sentences of less than 12 months.
The report claimed the government had failed to live up to the
pledge in Labour’s 2001 manifesto to improve the standard of
provision for 18-20-year-olds.
It said: “Imprisoning young men at this critical stage in
their lives can have a massively detrimental effect upon their
development and their future life chances. Alternatives to custody
should be sought in all possible cases.”
The Home Office is currently considering concentrating its
efforts on reducing re-offending on 18-20-year-olds under the
National Offender Management Service.
Chris Stanley, head of youth crime at rehabilitation agency
Nacro said there should be more focus on young adults.
“The peak age of re-offending is 19, but there is more
potential to change people at this age than with any other age
“If the government really concentrated resources there
would be a much higher chance of reducing re-offending and the
financial savings to prisons and society would be
‘Young, neglected and back’ from: www.howardleague.org