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
    custody.

    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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