Secure places for child offenders to be doubled: 'Costly and ineffective' scheme to expand

THE GOVERNMENT is planning to more than double the number of secure places run by local authorities despite mounting evidence that locking up child offenders is costly and ineffective.

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.

Suggested Topics
News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Fans hold up a scarf at West Ham vs Liverpool
footballAfter Arsenal's clear victory, focus turns to West Ham vs Liverpool
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
News
news
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
football
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Qualified Primary Teaching Assistant

£64 - £73 per day + Competitive rates based on experience : Randstad Education...

Primary KS2 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Primary NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam