YOIs Need More Staff, not Less…

© Community Care

The marked reduction in the number of young people entering the youth justice system in recent years has been well documented.

There have been some quite stark figures to illustrate this….

For example:

Overall there were 137,335 proven offences by young people in 2011/12, down 22 per cent from 2010/11 and down 47 per cent since 2001/02.

Where does this leave youth justice?…

In the last year there has been a notable reduction in offences committed by young people, in particular;

    • criminal damage (down 28%)
    • public order (down 27%)
    • theft and handling (down 23%) and
    • violence against the person offences (down 22%).

Source (YJB, 2012)

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Reductions apply across the piste, from those entering the system for the first time through to those receiving both Court and pre-Court disposals, as well as those made subject of custodial sentences.

What is noteworthy, however, and universally missing from the statistics, is that we are left with a high need group of young people – those for whom demographic changes, prevention and consistent intervention efforts have not been sufficient to stem their offending behaviour.

At least not yet…

Offending in a vacuum?…

Boy in Handcuffs - iStock_000021452491XSmall

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto/AlexRaths

It is now increasingly recognised that offenders, particularly young offenders, do not offend in a vacuum.

That is to say that the background, parenting and adverse experiences in early life tend, in broad terms, to bring about the genesis of behaviour which becomes criminal – sooner or later.

This is particularly the case where the psychological and physiological changes of puberty and adolescence seek to take hold in a person for whom the early foundational years have been skewed by abuse, neglect and/or other maltreatment.

Such individuals find themselves struggling to make the transition from childhood to adulthood smoothly, getting caught in all kinds of distracting and unhelpful milieu.

For some, this combination of historic (or current) adversity and physical coming of age, constitutes  a petrie dish of ideal conditions for the growth of all kinds of antisocial and/or pro-criminal presentations.

In my own recent experience of working in a custodial setting, I am aware – first hand – of the reduction in young people being admitted to serve sentences.  Vacancy numbers are slightly higher and tend to remain so for longer than was previously the case.

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A high need group…

One other observation continues to force itself into focus: those who are admitted appear to be more damaged, display more difficult behaviour and require longer more developmentally foundational interventions.

The steep rise in child protection referrals over the last 18 months in my own place of work, for example, can mean only that we are either dealing with higher need children or they are disclosing more than was previously the case.  I suspect it’s a bit of both.

If my observations are correct, then the question most obvious in light of the proposed staffing changes, is this:

                                        How can we help these more profoundly damaged children?

Is it likely that fewer staff is the answer?

What do you think?…

  • What are your views on the reason for the current reduction in first time entrants etc.?
  • Why do you think those that remain in the system are harder to help?
  • Please let me know your thoughts…   Leave a comment below or click here.

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© Jonny Matthew 2014

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