Debate on the youth justice system

We asked:- Do you think the youth justice system is
overly punitive?

Here are some of the comments we received:-

“In my opinion, we need to work to keep young people out
of the detention centres, and prisons. 

I would like to see more community policing, more activities and
youth services for young people. I also think more services need to
focus at preventing family breakdown, offering parenting advice by
professionals.  Also more flexible teaching support before young
people get involved in youth justice system and get permanently
excluded from school.

I would like to see early intervention, with planned strategies
to protect children who are at risk of getting into crime and
prostitution. This will mean targeting more of our resources on
offering preventative services rather than on administration.

I also think the government needs to listen to front line
workers who have experience of working with young people that are
socially excluded, as we are more experienced in knowing what will

Mary Marchant

“I read the article “Young, Troubled and Banged Up” earlier
today and I was truly appalled at the list of young people who have
felt so desperate that they have taken their own lives whilst in
prisons and Young Offender Institutions.

It may well be true that some had been found guilty of crimes,
but the response to their crimes has to be measured against their
life experiences. The opportunities that these young people have
had and personal issues may have contributed to the bad situations
that they may find themselves in.

Young people are not always fully emotionally developed and may
be immature in their reactions to what happens in their lives and I
feel that they are generally labelled and judged far too early.

We all make mistakes, but young people appear to be labelled and
condemned very quickly. More resources need to be found to help
them to find new life strategies. More investment in producing
better nurturing skills in their parents could go a long way to
develop better judgement skills as a child matures, both physically
and emotionally.

This particular approach may be rather too late for the young
people who are coming through the prisons and YOIs now, but it is
the ideal time to help children now and prevent the same thing
happening to them. We need to a little slower to condemn and rather
more committed to caring for our children from the cradle

Iona Butler

“I think there needs to be far more time and money spent on
looking into why young people commit crime and how we can provide
more effective therapeutic or educational alternatives to just

True, they need to be made aware of their responsibilities
towards society in terms of the cost and consequences of their
actions. Mostly, however, they are ‘damaged’ individuals who to
some degree, are victims themselves of parenting (or lack of), and
culture in which they have grown up.

Criminals are made, not born and so society needs to take some
responsibility in helping them towards being able to contribute
positively towards the society that they live in and not fight the
system as they do.

There needs to be more compassion towards youth offenders, more
therapeutic intervention, more education, more research into how
this can be reduced or prevented and less ‘writing young people
off’ or creating hardened criminals by a justice system that just
punishes and ultimately further alienates these individuals from a
society that they already struggle to feel a part of.

Quite a high number of ‘leaving care’ children end up in crime;
perhaps we also need to overhaul the care system…”

Nick Stepney


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