Board should follow Finland’s example

The Youth Justice Board has been urged to look at how Finland has achieved some of the lowest levels of youth custody in Europe.

Rob Allen, director of the International Centre for Prison Studies at King’s College London, told a conference this week that the YJB needed to do more to find placements outside custody for vulnerable juvenile offenders with mental health problems.

He highlighted research showing that Finland, which has a population of just over five million, has about 4,000 adolescent psychiatric beds and as few as four young offenders in custody at any one time.

There are more than 3,700 under-18s in custody in England and Wales, and the annual report of the chief inspector of prisons, Anne Owers, published last week, highlighted the inadequate facilities for young offenders with mental health problems.

Allen said he was trying to persuade the YJB to look at a healthcare-based system similar to the Finnish model.

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