Warner says jails may soon explode

The juvenile estate is suffering from “serious turbulence” as a
result of the extent of overcrowding, Lord Warner told the Youth
Justice Board’s annual convention last week.

Warner, who is chairperson of the YJB, said the juvenile estate
started to suffer when its capacity reached around 92 or 93 per
cent. At the end of October, the juvenile secure estate was at 97
per cent capacity.

Around 600 young people have been moved around the estate since
mid-June because of overcrowding, Warner told the convention.

“We are also seeing around 20 young people a week identified as
vulnerable being placed into prison service custody. It is the aim
of the board to place such youngsters in alternative accommodation
– secure training centres or local authority secure units – which
are better placed to meet their needs and respond to their often
serious risk of self-harm,” he said.

The point where “serious regime degradation will kick in” is
approaching, he warned.

He said that far too many young people were in custody, and called
on courts to use the growing number of community penalties
available instead.

Meanwhile, home secretary David Blunkett told the convention that
young offenders should be given boxing lessons to turn them away
from crime.

Blunkett said that recreational activities such as boxing could
help teach young offenders self-restraint, self-esteem, control and
the ability to channel aggression in a non-criminal way. It could
also provide a positive avenue for excluded youngsters to re-engage
with the wider community.

“This sort of activity helps young people away from antisocial
behaviour and stops them getting into trouble,” a Home Office
spokesperson said.

Blunkett told the convention that nearly three-quarters of
offenders who commit street crimes were under 17 and that early
intervention was needed if young people were to be stopped from
progressing from antisocial behaviour to a life of crime.

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