Secure places for child offenders to be doubled: 'Costly and ineffective' scheme to expand
Department of Health documents highlight the need for 'further and urgent expansion' in response to a surge in the numbers of unconvicted 15- and 16 year-olds being remanded into custody.
Coupled with proposals in the Criminal Justice and Public Order Bill - now going through the Commons - to extend court powers to enable children as young as 12 to be remanded, officials estimate about 170 new places are needed on top of the existing 265.
News of the expansion comes days after the independent Policy Studies Institute, in the first detailed study of persistent young offenders, called into question the government policy of locking up children.
The Home Office is planning to build five secure training units to hold 200 children, aged 12 to 14, with three or more convictions.
At a cost of about pounds 50m to build with running costs of pounds 2,000 per child per week, researchers concluded they would have little or no impact on the levels of crime and the money would be better spent on community punishments which tackled their offending behaviour.
The study of 531 persistent offenders found that most came from chaotic family backgrounds - half had had contact with social services and nearly 200 had required psychiatric help. Many regularly truanted and were disruptive at school and many were experienced users of drugs or alcohol.
Further, evidence from Northern Ireland, where a similar training scheme is running, suggests that over 80 per cent of the children will reoffend on release. While some of the young offenders went into custody with a low opinion of their behaviour, by the time they were released they were less ashamed.
Senior police officers have supported the Government's policy, saying communities need breaks from the children's criminal activities. However, Harry Fletcher, of the National Association of Probation Officers, said yesterday: 'Evidence suggests these institutions will confirm, not prevent, juvenile offending. The Home Secretary would be well advised to think again about the disastrous consequences of this policy.'
However, even before the legislation has come into force, the 'get- tough' policy of Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, has had an impact on the courts. There has been a 14 per cent increase in remands over the past four months and the prison population is rising at a rate of about 400 a week to 48,110 - with 214 now being held in police cells. Nearly 12,000 of these are remand prisoners, 60 per cent of whom will ultimately either be acquitted or given a non-custodial sentence.
Threat of 'catastrophic cascade of collisions' must be averted, warn scientists
Wellcome Image Awards: The most striking images from the world of science, including breast cancer cells under chemical attack and a photographer’s own kidney stone
Missing Malaysia Airlines plane: 'All passengers' under investigation, police say
Bob Crow death: 'Admired by his members, feared by employers' - Tributes pour in for RMT union leader and 'working class hero' Bob Crow
Oscar Pistorius murder trial: Athlete repeatedly sick as court hears 'graphic details' of Reeva Steenkamp's post-mortem
How climate change helped Genghis Khan: Scientists believe a sudden period of warmer weather allowed the Mongols to invade with such success
Britain's top vet sparks controversy with call for ban on slashing animals' throats in 'ritual' slaughters for halal and kosher meat products
Poor 'live like animals' says Boris's privately educated sister after going on 'poverty safari'
Exclusive: Impact of immigrants on British workers ‘negligible’
Vince Cable: Teachers 'know absolutely nothing' about the world of work
Ukraine crisis: Russia pledges to 'retaliate against sanctions' as Ukrainian president says Crimea vote will not be recognised
The quiet diplomat: Catherine Ashton - recognised and admired in all the world’s troubled countries, yet ridiculed at home
- 1 Pakistan vs Paul Smith: Sandal-wearers bemused by famed British designer's attempts to sell traditional Peshawari chappal-style shoes for the distinctly untraditional sum of £300
- 2 Family forced to flee home after discovering 'terrifying' nest of spiders in bananas
- 3 First Kiss: Filmmaker gets 20 strangers to make out on YouTube with awkward results
- 4 Grace Dent: Who cares if she spells it Barraco Barner? Gemma Worrall is more employable than some bookish arts graduate
- 5 Bob Crow death: 'Admired by his members, feared by employers' - Tributes pour in for RMT union leader and 'working class hero' Bob Crow
£30000 - £50000 per annum + Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: Private Cli...
£30000 - £35000 per annum + Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: Residential...
£1000 per month: Inspiring Interns: The company works with Tier 1 FTSE 100 Ban...
VOLUNTARY ONLY - EXPENSES REIMBURSED : Reach Volunteering: Fantastic opportuni...