With the uptick of youth in secure institutions, high rates of youth reoffending and lack of social responsibility associated with running quality custody centres, reform of the youth justice system some have tried to interject the issue into the spotlight. Of course, with Brexit and the recent election, domestic issues pertaining to youth offenders have lost attention in the public eye.
Last year, Charlie Taylor, the Chair of the Youth Justice Board issued a report of the justice system in England and Wales. Accompanying a description of the conditions in secure youth institutions, he also gave the government a list of improvements that could reduce the number of youth in custody. Since the leading Conservative party has their hands full with Brexit negotiations and rocky coalition-majority, the Ministry of Justice isn’t initiating these recommendations. However, the government has pledged to fulfil three policy changes.
The First change will be increasing local authorities more jurisdiction in their communities for youth sentencing. Tottenham’s Labour MP, David Lammy, suggests that community run justice systems will have positive impacts on youth offenders. Community members, especially elders, could be a part of the sentencing procedure and determine the appropriate response. Lammy’s reports show promise in the implementation of a peer court review that would depend on young volunteers to hold hearings and practice positively moving on from the crime for both the victim and perpetrator. In fact, a pilot peer court in Hampshire has seen tremendous decreases in reoffending as well as an attendance rate of 97% for hearings.
Secondly, the government has agreed the staggering two-thirds of youth offenders who went without education before placed in custody are unacceptable. The hope is to create pilot secure schools in the north and south of England where they must meet the typical standards of any other state run school. Education is seen as a critical force to keep young people out of custody or from reoffending. Considering 86% of the young male offenders have been temporarily or permanently excluded as well as literally rates for teens as low as a seven-year-old's, a link between education inclusion and offending rates seems to be closely linked. After being released, many of these boys face a difficult future as they lack the GCSEs to progress further in college. The state run secure schools would be able to improve educational outcomes while also socially helping the children as they are often isolated from others including family while in traditional custody centres.
Finally, reforms to resettlement training will be implemented in order to guarantee offenders will have a set place of employment, education or training upon release from detention. Currently, the reoffending rate is above 60% and offering the skills and activities needed to provide a stable reintegration into society is vital to the future of young offenders. Already there are initiatives such as secure custody centres training boys as cadets and sports clubs running sessions and detention establishments in order to promote positive reintegration.
(Original image can be accessed here)