Scepticism over Straws youth scheme

28 Sep 00
A supervision and surveillance scheme designed to curb the country's worst young offenders will do little to reduce youth crime, probation officers warned this week.

29 September 2000

The anti-crime initiative, launched by Home Secretary Jack Straw, will place up to 2,500 young offenders under 24-hour surveillance. Teams of probation officers will supervise 13-to-17 year olds on bail or serving community service. These will be combined with electronic tags and voice verification systems – with offenders required to ring call centres at designated times.

The scheme, operational from April 2001, is expected to cost £45m over three years and forms a central part of Straw's attempts to tackle youth re-offending and reduce crime.

'We'll need to make sure they tackle head-on their offending behaviour and give them the skills they need to turn their back on crime,' Straw said. 'That's our approach. Firm supervision. But a helping hand too.'

But probation officers described the scheme as a 'short-term control mechanism' that will do little to address the real causes of youth crime. 'This initiative fails to tackle the poverty, social exclusion and disadvantage that around 95% of these offenders come from,' said Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of the National Association of Probation Officers.

'The government should be honest and admit that it can't tackle youth crime through these type of resource-intensive programmes – it needs a ten-year plan to lift youngsters out of deprivation.'

Straw also announced a programme to double the proportion of ex-prisoners getting jobs, an extra £59m to help police collect more DNA samples and a £3m annual support fund for local crime and disorder partnerships.


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