Prisons without walls?

It is well known that Britain has one of the worst records in
western Europe for locking up children and young people. The
government says that it wants to reduce the use of custodial
sentences for this group, not least because the juvenile secure
estate is running at 97 per cent of its capacity, considerably
above the level at which the system can operate comfortably.

Significantly, the Home Office is piling on the pressure to
maximise use of measures to clamp down on antisocial behaviour in
communities. An anti-social behaviour unit has been created under
former homelessness tsar Louise Casey, while powers to deploy
antisocial behaviour orders and acceptable behaviour contracts have
been increased. These steps may help prevent street crime from
escalating to levels where custodial sentences are

But the government must avoid taking the authoritarianism that is a
necessary part of prison life into our communities. There are
already worrying indications of this as a few local authorities and
newspapers issue pictures of young people on ASBOs for prominent
public display. Far from strengthening communities, actions of this
kind demean them. We must beware of turning communities themselves
into surrogate prisons for young people.

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