Overcrowding threatens progress in rehabilitation efforts, says Owers

Providing sufficient support and resources for young adults in
penal institutions is one of the most urgent tasks facing
government and the prison service, according to the chief inspector
of prisons.

The system holding 18 to 21-year- olds requires the same injection
of ring-fenced money and attention as has already been given to
juveniles, Anne Owers says in her first annual report published
this week.

In the first half of 2002, reforms of juvenile justice were bedding
in, suicides in prison were being reduced, resettlement was
recognised as a core activity, and health care was beginning to
show modest improvements, Owers says.

“However, the second half of the year has been dominated not by
possibility for change and reform, but by the debilitating and
chilling effect of prison overcrowding,” she adds.

Presenting her report to the home affairs select committee earlier
this week, Owers said the number of children in prison had risen to
close to 3,000 and “looks set to rise further”. She highlighted
girls and children on remand as the two groups of young prisoners
giving most cause for concern.

Giving evidence to the same committee, the chairperson of the Youth
Justice Board last week hailed intensive supervision and
surveillance programmes as the “way of the future” for youth
justice, and called for their extension to 100 per cent of youth
offending teams.

Lord Warner pointed out that a six-month ISSP cost £6,000 in
comparison to £43,000 a year for a young offenders institution
placement, or £150,000 a year for a local authority secure
unit placement.

Warner suggested that the 18 to 20 age group might also benefit
from ISSPs and other programmes applied to juveniles.

Meanwhile in Scotland, the first comprehensive study of services to
young offenders shows that the system is too slow, with services
and the way in which young people are dealt with varying across the

The Audit Scotland report also suggests that 60 per cent of young
people who are imprisoned go on to re-offend.

The report is critical of the way in which money is spent and
highlights the impact made by the lack of human resources. About 60
per cent of the £240m spent on youth justice north of the
border is spent on prosecuting and reaching decisions about young
offenders rather than services to tackle offending behaviour, the
report reveals.

– Go to www.homeoffice.gov.uk/hmi
and www.audit-scotland.gov.uk

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