New report finds conditions in youth jails worse now than 10 years ago

Conditions in youth jails are worse than they were a decade ago despite falling numbers of offenders behind bars, researchers have claimed.

The number of children in custody fell by 4,208 (73%) in a decade, crime and justice consultancy group Crest Advisory said.

But in a report of its findings, funded by charity the Hadley Trust, the group claimed the Government has failed to capitalise on the drop in numbers, with conditions being worse than they were 10 years ago.

It raised concerns over rising levels of assaults and self-harm with higher re-offending rates.

The report calls for political parties to back:

  • An expansion of youth offending teams up to the age of 25
  • A ban on custodial sentences of less than six months for children
  • Temporary ban on closures of small secure children’s homes
  • Pledge to close all young offender institutions by 2025

Anne Longfield (pictured), the children’s commissioner for England, said: “Other than in the most exceptional circumstances, children should not be locked up.

“We know from this report, and others, that there are so many more effective, community-based interventions we could be putting in place.

“So I welcome further calls such as those in this report for a root and branch review of the youth justice system and particularly on the use of secure accommodation.

“I also welcome the call for a moratorium on the closure of smaller good quality secure children’s homes and a commitment to close the large young offenders’ institutes.

“Despite good intentions from many staff, the failure of the current system is well documented.

“It does not help the public they seek to protect and certainly not those young people whose lives they are failing to turn around.”

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “We have seen significant successes in youth justice over the past decade – the number of children in custody has fallen by 70% with those entering the system for the first time falling dramatically.

“Following an independent review of the youth justice system in 2015, our reform programme is driving improvements including increasing frontline staff in public sector YOIs by 20% and better training for officers.”

Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) The Children’s Commissioner.