Home Office plan sparks fears of an increase in prison places for children

No more prison places should be created for children under government plans to extend the secure estate by 8,000 places, a leading penal reform campaigner has warned.

Prison Reform Trust director Juliet Lyon (pictured left) urged the government to invest in smaller institutions – such as local authority secure children’s homes – rather than in prison places.

“For most people it is acceptable for some young people to be held in some form of secure care for a period, but the government should not subscribe to spending yet more money on child jails,” she said.

While details of the plan, which was unveiled in home secretary John Reid’s criminal justice review, have yet to be revealed, Home Office minister Baroness Scotland told Community Care the impact on children would “depend on demand”.

The 8,000 places will be kept under “close review” to see whether more are needed.

The Youth Justice Board said it did not plan to extend prison places for children, but would use £8m of ring-fenced Home Office funding to upgrade 190 places across several young offender institutions.

The board’s corporate and business plan for 2005-6 to 2007-8 revealed that YOIs accounted for the largest proportion – £157m – of its £383m budget for 2005-6.

This compares with the £9m spent on prevention during the year and just £4m invested in non-custodial schemes such as intensive fostering.

Reid’s criminal justice review also signalled a shift away from community rehabilitation by dropping the Custody Plus scheme, which was due to be introduced this November.

Main Home Office proposals

  • 8,000 new prison places by 2010
  • Parental compensation orders requiring parents to pay compensation for damage cause by the behaviour of children under 10
  • Tougher sentences for violent offenders
  • Faster prison recall for offenders who break the terms of their licence

    Additional information

  • YJB corporate and business plan
  • Home Office review 

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