THE BLOG

Youth Offending: The Case for a New Approach

05/03/2013 14:57 GMT | Updated 01/05/2013 10:12 BST

The 'future generation' that we all hear so much about from our politicians is forecasted to be a criminal one, with arguably the most worrying figure released last year from the Ministry of Justice telling us that young people between the ages 10-17 accounted for almost 18% of arrests made.

Countless suggestions have been put forward in the hope that these figures will fall. Unfortunately, none of these suggestions have had any significant impact on the young criminals, nor will they do unless the government starts to realise that putting teenagers behind bars, or something similar to that effect, can only do harm. Although the principle of punishing offenders is a sound one in theory, for people as young as ten or eleven, the only solution is to adopt a rehabilitation scheme. We have seen governments fail to convert these schemes into reality in the past, but merely for the reason that the schemes had not been rigorously enforced. Giving young offenders the opportunity of rehabilitation, through effective youth crime prevention programmes, would almost certainly deter them from committing future crimes, for the reason that rehabilitation offers young offenders the opportunity to learn how to adapt into society, through gaining life and academic skills. These young offenders would be far more suited in finding employment, and hopefully ensuring that as a result they would not just stop committing crimes, but also be given a sense of their value.

The issue of rehabilitation is not just a moral issue however. Prisons and young offender institutions are becoming more and more overcrowded. Not only are these young offenders' institution and prisons becoming overcrowded, but they have also proved to be very cost ineffective, with each prisoner costing the taxpayer nearly £40,000 every year. These problematic issues would be easily overcome with the installation of a rehabilitation scheme, which would attract the rising youth offender population away from criminal centres and into care and rehabilitation.

However, with government cuts across the Justice system having come into action, it is hardly surprising that the current rehabilitation schemes are failing to improve the current situation. One area in particular which has suffered is the youth offending teams. Over the past two years, these teams have lost more than 800 jobs. The youth offending teams, which were originally set up in order to take people out of the criminal justice system who don't need to be there, are also set to have their annual grants slashed by nearly 20%. The demand for more intensive supervision and surveillance is growing, and yet the Ministry of Justice has still decided to go ahead with these damaging cuts.

Although it is important to accept that the reason young people are getting arrested in the first place is likely to be linked to social and economic issues outside of the justice system, the Ministry of Justice has revealed that around one in three of these young offenders who are convicted will end up re-offending, highlighting that there are major flaws in the youth justice system and that the need for a rehabilitation scheme is more important than ever before.