Letter: Cynicism and hypocrisy over Bryn Melyn's 'failure'

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The Independent Online
Sir: As a former prison psychologist, I read with interest Brendan McNutt's article on the so-called 'holidays' which he organises for young offenders ('A safari holds more hope than jail', 30 December). However, I was left with two questions.

Why, when a highly traumatised young person is required to plan and carry out such a trip, is it called a 'holiday' and assumed to be a skive? When a highly privileged Army officer carries out an essentially similar exercise it is called 'adventure training' and is assumed to develop qualities of leadership and self-reliance.

Why did government ministers appear on television and condemn the Bryn Melyn approach on the basis of a single much-trumpeted 'failure'? The system over which the Government presides has a proven - and publicly acknowledged - failure rate of 70 per cent.

There is only one way to judge the usefulness of any treatment of offenders, and that is by applying it to a reasonably large number of them and carefully evaluating the results. The Home Office employs people with the necessary professional skills to do this. Unfortunately, Home Office ministers have always lacked the political spine to experiment with radically different approaches for fear of public reaction. While they allow government policy to be dictated by the delicate sensitivities of the average tabloid reader, they will continue to fail in their duty, and continue to waste our money.

Yours sincerely,

BOB FORDE

RAF Gatow

Berlin

30 December

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