Put young offenders ‘back on track’, says Community Care

Community Care launched a campaign this week to help young
people at risk of offending get their lives “back on track”.

The campaign is calling for a dramatic reduction in the number of
young people receiving custodial sentences and is demanding
improvements in the standard of treatment for those who are held in

The launch follows the release of alarming government statistics
that show an explosion in the number of vulnerable young people
being detained. Since 2000-2001, the numbers have increased from
432 to 3,337 in 2003-4 -Êa rise of more than 700 per cent.

A survey of members of youth offending teams and social workers
commissioned for the campaign reveals that more than 80 per cent of
respondents believe that current government policies are failing to
address the rehabilitation needs of young offenders.

More than 70 per cent also believe that services for young
offenders are reaching crisis point, with most citing practices
such as bullying, routine strip searches and inappropriate use of
control and restraint as significant problems.

“We believe locking up young people creates more problems than it
solves and, if it must be used, that it should only ever be as a
last resort,” said Community Care acting editor Mark
Ivory. “The evidence is that custody doesn’t work and consigns many
young people into a downward spiral of reoffending.

“Conditions in some young offender institutions are frankly
unacceptable and contravene basic human rights. Community Care
believes the system needs a complete overhaul and, through our Back
on Track campaign, we will be calling for that to happen.”

Community Care‘s survey also shows support for a greater
role for social workers, with more than 90 per cent believing that
a permanent role for social workers in prisons would help the
rehabilitation of young offenders.

Fran Russell, assistant director of the Howard League for Penal
Reform, which is backing the campaign, said: “Involving social
workers in the lives of these vulnerable young people both inside
and outside prison may well help to improve on the current
situation which sees nearly three-quarters of young prisoners
reconvicted within a couple of years.”

An Early Day Motion backing the campaign tabled by children’s
campaigner Hilton Dawson MP has already received the support of
more than 20 MPs.

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