Headlines: May 8th, 2006

The government’s failure to tackle re-offending is putting the public at risk according to a major report published today by the Howard League for Penal Reform. “Out for Good: the resettlement needs of young men in prison” follows the largest investigation into young offenders ever undertaken in England and Wales. The report’s author says in spite of the fact that young men having the highest rate of offending and re-offending, they have been largely ignored by initiatives to cut crime.The report says that each month more than a thousand young men are sent to prison and it costs 35,000 pounds a year to keep each of them inside, But researchers found little constructive work was taking place in prison or on release and that seven out of ten of those released from prison would be convicted again within two years.

The research looked at significant problems faced by young offenders, including violent and abusive backgrounds and extensive experiences of poverty. In a series of interviews the researchers asked young male prisoners what steps would help them to turn away from crime. More than half listed gaining employment.

Other changes they thought would help included having stable housing and being in a relationship, each cited by about a quarter of the interviewees, while both having a child and positive family relationships were mentioned by one in five of the young prisoners. Managing drug use was suggested by 17 per cent of them and 15 per cent listed managing alcohol use.

The report calls for fundamental changes in the way services think about and work with young men to reduce offending. Prison, the report finds, confirms criminal identity rather than helping young men to reject offending. “Out for Good” says the current operation of the criminal justice system does little to ensure young adult offenders make amends for what they have done, or recognise the impact of their behaviour on indiv idual victims, their families and the wider community.

Finola Farrant, whop wrote the report said sending young men to prison did virtually nothing to ensure they lead crime-free lives in future and could make re-offending more predictable. “There is an urgent need for the Home Secretary, and indeed many other Government departments to take responsibility for this failure to tackle re-offending. Such criminal neglect of young offenders puts the public at risk of further offending,” she added.