05 November 2004
The government has not delivered on a 2001 manifesto pledge to improve the standard of custodial accommodation and offender behaviour programmes for young adults, a new study claims.
A report by the Prison Reform Trust, published on November 4, warns that inadequate rehabilitation services and the frequent movement of young adults around the prison service is leading to three-quarters of inmates reoffending within two years of release.
Juliet Lyon, director of the PRT, said: 'Instead of cutting crime, the government's broken promise is a sure way to turn young offenders into old lags.'
A lost generation, based on interviews with offenders and information from Home Office-appointed prison monitoring boards, found that many young prisoners spend 20 hours a day locked in shared cells designed for one person.
Prison overcrowding forces authorities to move inmates around the system, which causes distress and disrupts rehabilitation programmes such as educational courses aimed at preventing reoffending.
Inmates at Feltham Young Offenders' Institute in west London were moved as far away as Northumberland, which disrupted family support– another key rehabilitation tool, the report says.
Contrary to ministerial claims, many young offenders are given short jail terms instead of community-based punishments. This causes them to lose jobs and accommodation, which the PRT believes could help youngsters from reoffending.
Report author Enver Soloman said: '[Young adults'] time in custody is critical if they are going to be turned away from a life of crime. Yet this report shows that they have become so neglected they have effectively become a lost generation within the prison system.'
Soloman has called for investment into young offenders' programmes and the appointment of a director for young adults.
However, a Home Office spokesman argued: 'We recognise that population pressures can impact on work that is carried out to address offending and can also impact on the distance many offenders are held from home.
'However, the Prison Service is committed to helping maintain family ties as a key factor of its resettlement strategy, and the government is taking action to ensure courts have robust alternatives to custody.'