Letter: Being unemployed does not necessarily lead to crime

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The Independent Online
Sir: So an internal Home Office document concedes that unemployment and 'relative deprivation' could be factors in explaining crime, particularly among young people ('70% of convicted offenders are found to be unemployed', 9 April). There is, of course, nothing new or startling in this.

Studies have repeatedly indicated that such a correlation may exist. For example, one such piece of research, commissioned by the Association of Chief Officers of Probation, revealed that 72 per cent of young offenders under the supervision of the Probation Service came within the EC Measure of Poverty ('Social Circumstances of Younger Offenders under Supervision', Lancaster University, 1993). The report also revealed that:

50 per cent received less than pounds 30 per week for themselves and any dependants;

only 5 per cent were consistently in employment or on a training scheme;

more than two-thirds of offenders aged 17 years had no reliable source of income whatsoever.

What concerns me most is that little effort has been made to break the link, particularly in areas where official levels of poverty, unemployment and crime are at their highest.

In my own area of Cleveland, for example, up to three in every four offenders are out of work, and out of the total number of unemployed, around 40 per cent of claimants have been out of work for more than a year and around 30 per cent have been out of work consistently for more than two years. The picture in other probation areas reinforces the comparative deprivation of those offenders under supervision.

What is needed is a concerted attempt to link economic strategy with social policy planning. Real job creation would provide hope for many young people in society. It would be refreshing indeed to hear of some positive measures that could combat crime, rather than the overwhelming negativism of the blame-everything culture that is presently in vogue.

Yours faithfully,

ROGER STATHAM

Chief Probation Officer,

Cleveland

Middlesbrough, Cleveland

8 April

The writer is Chair of the Social Policy Committee, Association of Chief Officers of Probation.

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