Secure care

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My few years working in secure residential child care was probably the steepest learning curve of my career to date.

It is a unique hot-house of challenge and delights.

Image courtesy of ©123rf/Haessig Jérémy

Image courtesy of ©123rf/Haessig Jérémy

So how can we do it better?

There are lessons here for everybody…

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Custody for kids: good & bad. Part 2…

Prison gates

Photo ©Jonny Matthew

In our last post on this subject, we looked at some of the system problems currently at play in the world of youth justice.

Specifically in the kind of secure provision for children who end up in custody.

We showed that closing beds in secure children’s homes is counter-productive. And that building a massive secure college makes no sense and has now, thankfully, been abandoned.

So what next?

A closer look at what the children’s custodial system must do if it is to succeed in its mission…

How to reduce re-offending by children leaving custody…

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Custody for kids: good and bad. Part 1…

Photo courtesy of ©123rf/Nigel Spooner

Photo courtesy of ©123rf/Nigel Spooner

The latest youth justice statistics present both good and bad news.

Numbers in custody are down. But instances of restraint and self-harm have increased.

In these austere times, and in any other times, fewer kids in prison is a good thing. But each young person is a lot more than a unit cost to the state. They’re not “prisoners”, they’re not “inmates”; they’re not even “young offenders.”

They are children first, offenders second.

There are some lessons the government and the secure estate need to learn in order to better serve young people.

Lessons for the secure estate…

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In prison and in distress…

Image - girl worries

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto/VeryOlive

Custody is a tough place to be. I guess some sections of the public may think that’s a good thing.

After all, prison is about punishment, right? Mmm.

A recent inspection report into Eastwood Park prison near Bristol highlighted the issue of self-harm.

So may be we should “listen” to the behaviour of those in custody before we make that judgment…

What behaviour tells us…

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Better justice for young people who offend…

Photo courtesy of ©123rf/Nigel Spooner

Like everyone else, I hear lots of negative stuff about young offenders. And to be honest, it annoys the heck out of me!

Until last week, I worked in a secure children’s home. We looked after 17 children serving custodial sentences for offences. This means that as well as the challenging behaviour, we also saw the positives.

In the end, they’re just kids. And the vast majority are very likeable human beings.

As well as seeing positives in the children, it’s been great to see a few positive changes in the youth justice system recently. Hopefully this reflects a positive shift-however slight-in the way young people who offend are viewed.

So what’s changed?

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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?…

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A Gaping HOLE in the WHOLE System Approach…?

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As anticipated in my previous post, the make up of the new Criminal Justice Board (CJB) is missing vital ingredients – anyone speaking for offender needs and perspectives.

After well over 20 years of working with young offenders, it’s clear to me that whilst some seem to be “hardened” and resistant to change, many would welcome more help to turn things around, put things right and get on track towards a crime-free life.

Even a cursory read of the various aims and mission statements of the organisations sitting on the CRB would reveal that their aims are exactly the same – to reduce offending, particularly re-offending.  So we’re all agreed: less crime is a good thing.

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New Criminal Justice Board – Inaugural Meeting…

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I’ve just received my usual daily update from the MoJ ( a great service, by the way!) and read the news of the inaugural meeting of the Criminal Justice Board (CJB).

On reading the aims of the Board, my initial reaction was that, despite the usually tiresome language of government based announcements, the focus of the Board sounded quite noble.  Then I looked again, the Board aims to ensure that the Criminal Justice System (CJS)…

  • reduces crime
  • reduces re-offending
  • punishes offenders
  • protects the public
  • makes reparation
  • improves public confidence and
  • ensures that the system is fair and just

As I said, all very noble – at least on the face of it. No mention of meeting the needs of offenders though.  No concern for mediating previous injustices, or ensuring proportionality in sentencing, or promoting the development of increasingly safe custodial settings, or redressing the fact that disproportionately higher numbers of poor people, black people and those with mental health problems find themselves in custody… I could go on.

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Prison Reform Trust – “Fatally Flawed”…

200 deaths of children and young people in custody in 10 years – new PRT report, “Fatally Flawed“, calls for urgent action…

© Jonny Matthew 2013