CHILD PRISON POPULATION BY 2/3RDS
A NEW report published Tuesday will say that youth custody
should be abolished for all but violent offenders, drastically
slashing the number of young people being locked up by around 4,000.
The report, issued by the Local Government Association (LGA) at its
Annual Conference in Bournemouth, says that children that commit
non-violent offences should be given tough community-based
sentences, not sent to prison. This would slash the young prison
population by around 65%, reduce re-offending amongst children and
save over £70m a year. Children who pose a risk to society should
continue to be sent to prison.
In the wake of the Inquiry into the death of Zahid Mubarek at
Feltham, such a move would take pressure off overcrowded cells and
help to ensure the implementation of Mr Justice Keith's
recommendation that the elimination of enforced cell sharing should
be a high priority.
Council leaders are calling for resources to be diverted from the
custody system to community-based initiatives and for the courts to
use tough prison sentences only as a last resort. The government
also needs to send a clear message that sending children to prison
can be counter-productive in many cases.
The child prison population has risen by over 50% since 1992, with
children locked up for roughly twice as long as they were in 1994,
despite the fact that re-offending rates after custody stand at 82%.
Around 6,500 children are sent to custody every year.
Cllr Les Lawrence, the LGA's spokesperson on Children and Young
People, says:- "More and more children are being locked up for
offences that are less and less serious. Thousands of young people
are caught in a vicious circle that condemns them to a life of crime
and does nothing to make the nation a safer place. The worst
offenders still need to go into custody as the protection of the
public must be put first. But this year alone we estimate that more
than 4,000 young people who didn't commit violent offences ended up
behind bars. To deal with them in the community would be more
effective and cost the taxpayer less. These changes won't happen
over-night and decisions by the courts need to be made based on
individual circumsatnces, but over the next few years there needs to
be a concerted effort to halt this worrying trend.
Community sentences aren't an easy option, restricting where young
people can go and what they can do. But, this is combined with
intensive support to tackle the root causes of their behaviour and
to stop them re-offending in the future. Locking young people
up simply doesn't work in many cases, with around nine out of ten
re-offending when they come out. In addition, custody is incredibly
expensive, costing the taxpayer around £245m every year."
Tim Bateman from the Youth Crime division of Nacro, the youth
offending charity, says:- 'Nacro welcomes the LGA's report.
The costs of locking up children at the current rate is far too
high: custody is detrimental to children's welfare; it is at best
ineffective, and more frequently counterproductive, as a measure for
reducing youth crime; and it is wasteful of resources which might be
put to better use to prevent offending'.
VOICES OF POVERTY
POVERTY “is about unequal choices”
according to a
report published by End Child Poverty. The report, which chronicles
the views of families in poverty from Liverpool and across the
United Kingdom, highlights the difficult choices they face in their
daily lives and the solutions they recommend.
“People [in poverty] don’t get the same choices as other
people…do we heat or eat?” Participant
In the report families speak passionately about the effect of the
daily, endless grind of poverty and the impact it has on their
“When you are depressed, it affects your children, …in some
cases, you do not think of … the children, because you are
constantly thinking about paying back your debts.”
This report brings together the views of over 300 people who took
part in a series of inspiring events organised by End Child Poverty,
its members and supporters in Belfast, Cardiff, Glasgow, London,
Liverpool and Sheffield. The feedback event in Liverpool took place
on the 5 April 2006.
“If you listen directly to families in poverty you learn that
many have yet to experience the good quality service that the
Government is trying to deliver.
Enabling parents to get out of
poverty requires highly individualised services and support.
Enabling children of the future to break the cycle of poverty
requires equal access to high quality education.” said Hilary Fisher,
Director of End Child Poverty
Recommendations from participants include improving access to high
quality, accessible, affordable childcare, improvements to the
benefits & tax credit, fair wages and equal access for children to
high quality education.
“Solving child poverty won’t be easy, earlier this year the
Government narrowly missed its target to end child poverty by a
quarter, it is clear much more needs to be done if the Government is
to meet its next target of halving child poverty by 2010 and prevent
poverty for future generations.
The Joseph Rowntree report published today, What will it take
to end child poverty? estimates the impact of government policies
and what is needed to eradicate child poverty. Listening to the
views of families in poverty is an essential part of finding the
solution. This report is published in association with the Joseph
Rowntree Foundation who did just that. The government and all the
opposition parties need to do so too.” said Hilary Fisher.
The Joseph Rowntree report calls on the Government to substantially
increase parents earning opportunities, benefits and improve
educational achievement of disadvantaged children. The
Government must act now to make sufficient progress in these areas
to enable the UK to reach its target of ending child poverty by
2020. While the costs estimated by the JRF may appear high the costs
of not tackling child poverty is even greater. As 1 parent said:-
“Childhood cannot be relived. Isolation, desperation and hurt are
not just words for young people - they have a scarring impact. It is
unforgivable that these years can be allowed to be stolen from young
people through poverty.”