Editorial Comment: Nannying tendancies

The government’s policy review has been much preoccupied with targeted interventions in response to some of the most pressing social problems. Intended to set out future strategic priorities, the document produced by the ministerial group on security, crime and justice has sensible things to say about a range of topics including youth offending and mental health.

But it gives frighteningly free rein to the nannying tendency of this government. For example, it suggests much more use of predictive tests to establish whether young children are likely to turn to crime in later life, heightening the risk of labelling and intrusive policing of poor families.

Much has been done by youth offending teams and youth inclusion and support panels to promote early intervention to prevent offending behaviour, but as more evidence emerges about “what works” the potential for new ingenious techniques grows all the time. Looking back, the report highlights action to reduce poverty and unemployment as essential to crime reduction; looking forward it talks about tackling dysfunctional families.

Yet the correlation between poverty and youth crime remains stark: with 2.5 per cent of the population still socially excluded and with both relative and child poverty figures rising for the first time in six years, no one should imagine that the battle against this particular cause of crime has been won.

The report also suggests more mental health-related support for suitable offenders when they are sentenced. But as prison numbers rise, social policy should aim for fewer collisions between people and the penal system.


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