Youth Justice Board puts focus on community penalties

The Youth Justice Board is set to reduce the number of beds it
commissions from both prison service accommodation and local
authority secure children’s homes, it has emerged,
writes Clare Jerrom.

The board instead will focus on the use of community based
intensive supervision and surveillance programmes – available
across England and Wales from this week – and places within
privately run secure training centres (STCs).

“We are currently evaluating bids from LASCHs (local
authority secure children’s homes) for the next financial year
(2004-2005) with a view to reducing the number of places
purchased,” a statement from the board said.

“This will correspond with an increase in the number of
beds available in STC following the opening of a new 80 bed centre
in Milton Keynes during 2004,” it added.

There are currently three STCs in England and Wales, and the
board also have plans for further STCs to be built in addition to
the one in Milton Keynes.

The board’s decision follows a reduction in the number of young
people sentenced and remanded in custody. According to its figures
there has been a 13 per cent fall in the number of juvenile boys in
custody since October 2002.

Meanwhile, improvements are needed in the way children are dealt
with in custody, according to the acting chairperson of the Youth
Justice Board.

Speaking at the YJB’s annual convention in London, Sir
Charles Pollard said the pace of reform in the secure sector has
not matched the achievements made in the community to deal with
young people who offend.

Pollard acclaimed the achievements made by youth offending teams
working with young offenders in the community to steer young people
away from crime. There has been a 22.5 per cent decrease in
re-offending against the predicted rate for young people on
community punishments.

Pollard’s comments came as rehabilitation agency Nacro and
INQUEST united to launch a call for a public inquiry into the death
of 16-year-old Joseph Scholes, who was found hanging in his cell at
Stoke Heath young offender institution in March 2002.

Joseph given a two-year custodial sentence despite the fact that
he had suffered a traumatic childhood, exhibited signs of
depression, periodic suicidal tendencies and had begun to
self-harm  – in one instance slashing his face 30 times with a

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