Young people and Crime

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This essay will look at ‘why do youth justice professionals argue for a reduction in the use of incarceration for young people and why has it been unsuccessful’. Muncie believes that “Youth justice is an area of social control prone to conflict, ambiguity and unintended consequences” (2004, pg 155). This confusion stems partly from the historical dual purpose of care and punishment. It is also related to the pivotal position ‘troublesome youths’ hold in politically-inspired law and order discourses.

Burrell (2002) states that “The number of children behind bars has risen above 3,000 for the first time and the government’s youth crime chiefs have warned ministers about the rise in those aged 12 and 13 years old being locked up”. The youth justice board revealed that there are 10 children aged 12, 75 children aged 13 and 175 aged 14 now being incarcerated in England and Wales. Burrell (2002) stated that “The number of children in custody under 14 has risen by 75 per cent since last year”.

Arnold (2008) believes that “If an individual is under the age of eighteen, he or she should still be considered a child and treated appropriately by the legal system”. Arnold (2008) argues that “Contrary to current beliefs, children should not be treated as adults because juvenile justice system proves more beneficial to helping children”. This is true as children should be given the chance to make themselves better which they can do in a juvenile justice system and not in an adult prison.

Arnold (2008) states that “Juvenile justice institutions are equipped with counsellors and programs that can help convicted youths get on the right track”. Overall “The number of children sentenced to custody in England and Wales more than tripled between 1991 and 2006” (Bromley 2009). In 2007 the Prison Reform Trust launched a new programme to reduce children imprisonment with the support of the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund. The first phrase of the programme is to reduce the number of 18 years old in custody in England and Wales.

The use of detention should be reserved only for those under 18 years old who have committed serious, violent crimes and who pose a real physical threat to their community. Other young offenders should receive community sentences with other ways of dealing with offending. However this has been unsuccessful as Bromley 2009 states that “In 2008, 14,800 young children young were sent to prison under sentence”. Bromley 2009 also stated that “In the last fifteen years the number of sentenced young people entering prison increased by 30%”. Over that time the number of sentenced young women imprisoned has more than trebled”.

Bromley 2009 states that “Incarceration of children is very expensive and uses up to two thirds of the Youth Board budget”. It cost £165,750 per place in a secure training centre and £415 million is spent on a whole secure estate for children each year. Lord Newton who is the ex-Tory Cabinet in the House of Lords states that “There was a wide agreement that youth justice was a mess before 1997 and the organisation had improved matters” (BBC News 2011). Also Lord Woolf who is the Chief Justice in the House of Lords states that “It would be real sacrilege if we took out the criminal justice system something that works” (BBC News 2011).

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