Editorial Comment: The scandal continues

Prisons inspector Anne Owers must be congratulated on her terrier-like determination to address the continuing scandal of our treatment of 18- to 21-year-olds in custody.

Nearly six years after she first raised the issue, she is highlighting a new threat from the Offender Management Bill which strips away the last shred of protective legislation by proposing that this group is moved out of young offender institutions.

Owers is warning against “decanting” young people into adult jails and is calling for separate facilities for them. But the pressure on the system is such that some jails are already drawing up plans that will involve scattering the new arrivals and placing them “under the wing” of selected prisoners.

This seems like a recipe for mentoring the old lags of the future. If home secretary John Reid is serious about trying to prevent reoffending he might want to consider some of Owers’ sound suggestions for handling impressionable young people who are not too old to change their ways.

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