Turning 18 is not an event to celebrate if you are a young person in prison, as chief inspector of prisons Anne Owers demonstrated this week in her annual report. For those aged 18-21 are still “in limbo”, often held alongside juveniles who have better provision or adult prisoners in overcrowded prisons where they can mix with serious offenders including sex offenders.
In the past 10 years, the number of sentenced young adults entering prison has increased by 40 per cent. But with little specific provision, they have become a neglected group. This will doubtless worsen as the government implements legislation that abolishes the requirement for young adults to be held separately from adults once they are sentenced.
Owers found young adults spending considerable periods locked in their cells, with insufficient education, work or other activity. Couple this with mental health problems and substance abuse common among this group and it is no wonder that reconviction rates are high – in 2001, 69 per cent of young male adults were reconvicted within two years of release.
If the government wants this to reduce it should start honouring its 2001 election manifesto commitment to improve provision for this age group.