Select Committee on Home Affairs First Report


322. Young prisoners are those prisoners aged between 15 and 21 years, the group being broken down into juveniles (15-17 years) and young adults (18-21 years). The majority of young prisoners have suffered multiple deprivations in the shape of physical and sexual abuse, physical and mental health problems, parental neglect, poor educational attendance and substance misuse. Between 40% and 49% of young people in custody have been in local authority care. Forty per cent of girls and 25% of boys report having suffered violence at home. Over 30% of girls report sexual abuse. Nearly 50% of those in custody who are of school age have literacy and numeracy levels below those of the average 11 year old. Research estimates that between 46% and 81% have mental health problems, with 10% exhibiting signs of psychotic illness. Fifty-one per cent were poly-drug users and approximately 40% had been dependent on a substance at some point in their lives. [259]

Juvenile prisoners

323. The focus of our inquiry was on adult and young adult prisoners, and we did not have the opportunity to take detailed evidence on the specific needs and problems of juveniles. Nonetheless this is an important topic and we therefore set out here some basic information about juveniles, and make a number of recommendations.

324. Over the first six months of 2004, the number of juvenile prisoners increased by 11%: on 2 July 2004, there were 2,586 juvenile prisoners in England and Wales. Reconviction rates are very high amongst this group: in 1999, 80% of 14-17 year olds discharged from prison were reconvicted within two years. [260] The majority of juvenile prisoners have a background of severe social exclusion—over a quarter of those of school age have literacy and numeracy levels of the average seven-year old. Over 50% have a history of being in care or social services involvement.

325. The number of juveniles who received custodial sentences in 2003-04 was 5,400. The Detention and Training Order (DTO)[261] is the main custodial sentence used for juvenile prisoners. Of the sentenced juvenile population, approx. two-thirds are serving DTOs. The average length of time spent in custody under a DTO is 4½ months. The remainder of the sentenced population are serving sentences for "grave crimes",[262] spending on average about 11 months in the juvenile estate, although many are transferred thereafter to adult custody where they spend a significant additional amount of time before release.

326. Intensive Supervision and Surveillance Programmes (ISSPs) are also available for persistent and serious young offenders under 18 years. Between April 2003 and March 2004, 4,700 ISSPs were imposed on juvenile offenders as compared to 3,350 for the same period in 2002-03. 412 ISSPs were commenced in the first month of the 2004-05 financial year. The overall completion rate since the introduction of ISSPs is 51%.[263]

327. The juvenile secure estate consists of four sectors:

    i.  Young offender institutions for boys, comprising approximately 85% of the available accommodation for juveniles. About 2,600 boys are accommodated in 14 establishments.

    ii.  Prison service accommodation for girls. Since the end of 2003, no girls under the age of 17 have been placed in prison service accommodation. At present around 80 girls aged 17 are placed at any one time in prison accommodation shared with older female prisoners. The Home Office has undertaken that all these girls will be moved to discrete juvenile units by early 2006. £16 million has been allocated to the Youth Justice Board to establish the new units, in addition to £3.5 million earlier set aside for a new unit for under 18s at HMP Downview, to which girls will be transferred from HMP Holloway.[264] We welcome the Home Office's undertaking and look forward to seeing it implemented on schedule.

    iii.  Secure training centres, providing 194 accommodation places for 12-14 year olds and some of the more vulnerable sentenced and remanded 15-16 year old girls and boys.

    iv.  Local authority secure children's homes, providing places for children from the age of 10 upwards who need to be held securely for welfare reasons as well as criminal justice reasons.[265]

328. The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 established a new principal aim for the youth justice system—"to prevent offending by children and young people".[266] The Youth Justice Board for England and Wales (YJB) was established under the Act to monitor the operation and performance of the youth justice system and to identify and disseminate good practice in youth justice and in preventing offending by children and young people.[267] In addition, youth offending teams were created, requiring local authorities, social services and education authorities to work with the police, probation services and health authorities in a multi-agency approach to administering community sentences and interventions and working with juvenile custodial establishments.

329. Since April 2000, the YJB has been responsible for commissioning services for juvenile prisoners who are sentenced and remanded to secure facilities. The YJB considers that this "commissioning approach has enabled the Board to influence the standards of custodial regimes for young offenders".[268]

330. The Prison Service has established a five-year Partnership Agreement with the YJB to improve rehabilitative provision for juveniles. The Youth Justice Board National Standards require there to be

    "an educational assessment [of all juvenile prisoners] on arrival; educational needs must be continually addressed in the individual training plan with appropriate goals. All education should be delivered in line with the national specification for learning and skills." [269]

331. The Prison Rules 1999 require arrangements to be made for all prisoners of compulsory school age to participate in education or training courses for at least 15 hours a week within the normal working week.[270] However, as the table below demonstrates, the average number of hours spent in education by juvenile prisoners has been falling in recent years.

Average number of hours spent by juveniles in education

Hours per week

332. The YJB aims to provide young offenders with 30 hours a week of purposeful activity, including good quality education and training provision, whilst in custody. However, according to HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, Anne Owers, "no juvenile establishment has yet succeeded in meeting the YJB target of 30 hours per week in education and training".[271] There are currently no offending behaviour programmes for juvenile offenders. The Prison Service states that Juvenile Enhanced Thinking Skills and sex offender programmes are currently being developed.[272]

333. We welcome the Youth Justice Board's efforts to date to reform the operation and performance of the youth justice system and the work it has completed, in partnership with the Prison Service, to improve rehabilitative provision for juvenile prisoners.

334. However, we regret the consistent failure to meet the YJB target of 30 hours of constructive activity per week for this prisoner group, and the Government's failure to meet its statutory obligation regarding the number of hours juvenile prisoners spend in education and training courses. The very low literacy and numeracy levels of this prisoner group dictate that education and training should form the cornerstone of the prison rehabilitation strategy for juvenile prisoners, with the adoption of innovative approaches to education, training schemes and work placements.

335. Nacro has been running a rehabilitation scheme, known as the 'On-side' Programme, for juvenile prisoners since 1999. The scheme provides each youngster with a tailor-made programme overseen by a key worker based at the prison. The programme seeks to tackle problems such as drug-dependency, and offers practical help on addressing housing, employment and training needs. An evaluation of the programme commissioned by Nacro shows a significant reduction in re-offending rates for 15-17 year old programme participants between 1999 and 2001: 58% of project participants re-offended following release, compared with a national rate of 84% for young offenders leaving prison service institutions. The evaluation found that continued contact with the programme after release was particularly effective in reducing the likelihood of the young person returning to crime. Nearly two-thirds of those who were supported after release managed to stay away from further trouble.

336. It is regrettable that the Government's National Action Plan for rehabilitation does not provide a strategy for dealing with juvenile prisoners. We recommend that a the Government develop a comprehensive prison rehabilitation regime for juvenile prisoners. This should address the lack of provision of appropriate housing for young people and the difficulties in securing education and training post-custody. In addition, access to and provision of drug treatment programmes should be improved for juvenile prisoners.

Young adult prisoners

337. A report by Nacro, published in 2001, concluded that 18-21 year old offenders are a particularly vulnerable group. Nearly 75% of young adult prisoners were excluded from school at some stage and 63% were unemployed at the time of their arrest. Young adult prisoners constitute 42% of first time offenders and receive short-term sentences of less than 12 months.[273] The average time spent in custody for young adult prisoners serving a short-term sentence is eight weeks and one day.[274] In July 2004, there were more than 8,000 young adults in prison.[275]

338. Young adult males exhibit the highest level of re-offending of any other age range, and young adult prisoners are particularly vulnerable to suicide and self harm. Young adult prisoners are more likely than adults to suffer from mental health problems and are more likely to commit or attempt suicide than both younger and older prisoners.[276] Nearly two thirds of young female prisoners under 21 years self-harmed in 2003.[277] In 2003 no juveniles died in custody but 11 young adult prisoners did. Between January 1990 and December 2003, there were 177 self-inflicted deaths of young people in prison; this represents 19% of all self-inflicted deaths during that period.[278]

339. The Joint Committee on Human Rights has recently produced a report on deaths in custody.[279] This highlighted the deaths in custody of children and young people as "especially distressing". The report noted practical measures taken by the Youth Justice Board to minimise the risk of self-harm and suicide, but commented "there have been some deeply worrying cases of children and young people who have died while in the care of the state". It drew attention in particular to the case of Joseph Scholes, who hanged himself in HMYOI Stoke Heath in March 2002 at the age of just 16. He had been placed in prison service custody rather than local authority secure accommodation despite the trial judge having wanted warnings about his history of self-harming and sexual abuse to be "most expressly drawn to the attention of the authorities". The Joint Committee recommended that there should be a public inquiry into Joseph Scholes's death (as had been urged by the coroner who presided over the inquest), noting that there has never been a public inquiry into the death of a child in custody.[280]

340. Effective resettlement of young adults is often hampered by lower levels of benefit, lower minimum wage levels and an increased likelihood of unemployment and homelessness. Currently, about 72% of 18-20 year olds are reconvicted within 2 years of release.[281]

341. The graph below provides a break down of the young male population by offence.[282] The majority of young adult prisoners have been convicted of non-violent offences. In 2003 over a third of young males in prison were serving sentences for robbery and theft.

Source: Prison Statistics England and Wales, November 2003.

342. The Government has attempted to create more effective intervention programmes of sufficient punitive weight and rehabilitative content for young adult offenders in the community. The Intensive Control and Change Programme ("ICCP") is a community based sentence for offenders who would otherwise face up to 12 months in prison. It contains an electronically monitored curfew where the young adult is curfewed for up to 12 hours a day. The Probation Service works with the police on oversight of the ICCPs in the community and the enforcement of the terms and conditions. Those subject to an ICCP also do up to seven hours a week (unpaid) community service and complete up to 18 hours a week rehabilitation programmes, depending on the needs and risks identified by the OASys. In the 11 pilot areas for ICCPs, there were 58 ICCPs commenced in April 2004 and 66 in May 2004.

343. HM Chief Inspector of Prisons has criticised the "relative impoverishment" of the regimes and activities available for young adult prisoners, reporting that in nearly all prison establishments inspected, there is insufficient rehabilitative work for young adults prisoners. The statistics relating to young adult prisoners from our 'Prison Diary Project' confirm the Chief Inspector's findings. Seventy per cent of young adult prisoners spent less than four hours a day out of their cell in constructive activity. The statistics also indicated that the proportion of young offenders who received advice about accommodation or work after release were only 32% and 26% respectively, whilst over 75% of responding prisoners did not have a job to go to on release.[283]

344. In February 2004 we visited at HMYOI Aylesbury to find out about the approach to rehabilitation adopted there. In 1989, this establishment was designated a long-term young offender institution, holding young male prisoners aged 18 to 21 serving sentences from two years up to life imprisonment. From the prisoner's arrival onwards, sentence planning is geared to education and skills training. The prison runs, in partnership with Toyota, a successful mechanics training course with a fully equipped workshop where young adult prisoners can obtain NVQ qualifications from Levels 1 through to 4. It also runs a fitness instructor training programme with a range of recognised qualifications; it participates in the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme; and there are plans to create a painting and decorating workshop. As far as possible, the prison day is structured to reflect the normal working day, with recreational use of the gym and other facilities in the evenings. In addition, the resettlement agenda has been prioritised by the Deputy Governor (Head of Resettlement) through the appointment of a full-time member of staff with responsibility for resettlement planning.

345. Recent efforts to reform the prison regime for young prisoners have focused on the juvenile prison estate. As a result, 18 to 21 year old prisoners have been overlooked. We recommend that the Government match the investment it has made, through the Youth Justice Board, in developing a prison rehabilitation strategy for juveniles, by designing an equivalent tailored range of rehabilitative interventions for young adult offenders.

346. Levels of constructive activity and intervention programmes for the young adult prison population are woefully inadequate. We commend the Governor and his staff at HMYOI Aylesbury on the rehabilitation initiatives they are running for young adult offenders. We recommend that the Prison Service incorporate such models of good practice into a national rehabilitation strategy for young adult offenders, to be set out in a revised edition of the National Action Plan.

347. Evidence demonstrates that young prisoners need intensive support following release to (i) deal with day-to-day practicalities, (ii) complete educational courses commenced in custody and (iii) ensure they do not fall back into crime.

348. We recommend that the Government conduct a small number of pilot schemes for appropriately trained mentors of young adult offenders. The scheme should be independently monitored and evaluated to assess its impact on re-offending rates.

259   Ev 263-264 (para 13) Back

260   Prison population and accommodation briefing for 2 July 2004 and YJB information Back

261   A DTO is half served in custody and half in the community under the supervision of a Youth Offending Team. Back

262   Under sections 90 and 91 of the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000. Back

263   Home Office answers to Committee questionnaire on Home Office Departmental Report 2004 (June 2004) (to be printed) Back

264   Prison Service, Prison Service News, No. 229 (May 2004) Back

265   Ev 262 Back

266   Section 37 of the Act Back

267   Ev 262 Back

268   Ibid. (para 1.3) Back

269   Youth Justice Board, National Standards for Youth Justice Services 2004 (2004)  Back

270   S.I., 1999, No. 728 Back

271   HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, Annual Report of Chief Inspector of Prisons 2002-03 (2004) Back

272   Ev 146 (para 4.1.8) Back

273   Social Exclusion Unit, Reducing re-offending by ex-prisoners (July 2002) Back

274   Prison Statistics England and Wales 2002 (2003) Back

275   Prison population and accommodation briefing for 2 July 2004 Back

276   Office for National Statistics, Psychiatric Morbidity among young offenders in England and Wales (2000) Back

277   Prison Service, Safer Custody News (2004) Back

278   Joint Committee on Human Rights, Third Report of Session 2004-05, Deaths in Custody (HL 15-I, HC 137-I), para 51 Back

279   See previous footnote. Back

280   Deaths in Custody, paras 73-76 Back

281   Young Adult Offenders, A Period of Transition, Nacro Press Relase, 25 March 2003, ROP 21. Back

282   No such break down is available for young female offenders. Back

283   See Annex 4. Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2005
Prepared 7 January 2005