Headlines: July 19th, 2001

Schemes to curb the criminal activities of persistent young offenders are being launched across the country. They will target those who are estimated to commit a quarter of all youth crime. It has long been recognized that short custodial sentences are not effective in changing behaviour and preventing further offending. The programme of 41 schemes aims to keep young offenders out of custody in favour of a quality-assured community sentence where they are closely monitored and supervised in a hands-on approach by Youth Offending Teams aware of individual needs. The Youth Justice Board for England and Wales will manage the programme which will give magistrates a robust alternative to custodial sentences and remands for young hardcore repeat offenders.The programme includes individually tailored packages of reparation, training and education measures designed to both punish offenders and tackle their offending behaviour. Offenders on the programme could be cleaning up graffiti on vandalised estates, while also undertaking highly structured literacy or numeracy programmes, and where appropriate undergoing drug rehabilitation.

Offenders serving on a scheme will be subject to intensive surveillance in the community for up to 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Electronic tagging and voice verification can be used to monitor offenders, as well as intelligence led policing and advocate schemes where young offenders are tracked and supervised by dedicated police and Youth Offending Team personnel.

A pilot intensive supervision programme launched last year proved successful. The 27 young offenders who took part had committed 160 offences in nine months, but while on the scheme offences went down to 47. None of the young people re-offended with a more serious crime and only five re-offended with a crime of equal seriousness. Others did not offend at all.