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Tagged In:  Youth Offending

When Michael Gove was appointed Justice Secretary last year he made it clear that one of the first areas he would focus on would be a review of the youth justice system, the findings from which were expected this summer. 

We were, along with others, somewhat surprised to see the government publish an interim report on the emerging findings from the review. 

By far the most revealing recommendation contained within the report is that young offenders should serve their sentences in secure schools rather than in a prison environment. But what does this all mean?

From reading the report, it appears as if the intention is to put education at the heart of youth offender rehabilitation within the secure estate. Smaller, more parochial schools, that rely upon the expertise of educational and behavioural expertise, including offender health practitioners, should, as the report recommends, greatly assist in driving down persistent reoffending. 

Interestingly, the report notes that although the number of children in custody has dramatically declined in recent years (by 64% since 2006/07), the closure of 12 secure establishments has seen a higher proportion of young offenders living far away from home. Moreover, of those offenders the report refers to as “more persistent and troubled”, two thirds go on to reoffend within a year of being released. 

In terms of education, the report makes a direct link. In the region of 40% of young people in under 18 Young Offender Institutes, have evaded school since the age of 14, with almost 90% having been excluded at some point during their school years.  

As of yet, it’s not entirely clear what devolution will mean , but early recommendations from the review suggests giving local areas greater control over the way young people are managed by devolving responsibility and ultimately financial control away from central government. 

Ultimately, if the recommendations are given the green-light, which will be a long way off as yet, we’re likely to see youth prisons replaced with smaller secure schools. Of course, a much more structured educational approach will also require a rethink on inspections. The Ministry of Justice report recommends that “such establishments would be inspected under the education framework and held to the same standards as other alternative provision schools, while ensuring proper scrutiny of the safeguarding, security and rehabilitation services.” In other words, rather than education being introduced into youth prisons, secure schools would be seen as ‘schools’ first and foremost which are overlaid with the necessary security arrangements.

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