Target, tag and train

In the same week that Community Care highlights the
appalling human cost of locking young people up, the Youth Justice
Board publishes a report evaluating one of the alternatives to
youth custody.

Its interim study of ISSPs (intensive supervision and surveillance
programmes) makes encouraging reading. The scheme takes on some of
our most damaged young people and manages to engage them.

More than a third of those on ISSPs live with known offenders and
another third have been abused. Not surprisingly some 80 per cent
were out of school yet during the course of their ISSP, 97 per cent
took part in education and training.

Researchers found that the police and the public had confidence in
the programme, yet the media has homed in on the fact that 85 per
cent of young people were reconvicted at some point within a year
of starting the programme. True, at face value that figure doesn’t
look good, though it drops to 76 per cent for those successfully
completing the programme.

But it cannot be stressed enough that the scheme targets the worst
offenders, those described as already “firmly engaged in a career
of criminal behaviour”. And what is the alternative remedy for this
group? Locking them up in institutions that amount to little more
than “universities of crime”; places to where they are sent for
stealing a mobile phone and are later released knowing how to
hotwire a car or, as in one case we came across, how to crack a

As Community Care‘s Back on Track campaign has
highlighted, courts in the UK lock up more young people than
virtually any other country in Europe. If we reject community
alternatives such as ISSPs we are condemning many to a life of

We are also, as our feature on suicide in jail makes clear,
condemning some vulnerable young people to death.

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