Published

By nacro

in Nacro comments

The Justice Select Committee has, today, released the second part of its report into children and young people in custody, focusing on The Youth Secure Estate and Resettlement’. This second report follows the publication, in November 2020, of the Committee’s initial report on ‘Entry into the Youth Justice System’.

Today’s report reiterates the fall in the number of children and young people held in custody – a 70% decrease across young offenders’ institutions, secure training centres and children’s homes – since 2010, and notes the success in “more diversion to non-custodial sentences.” Yet, clearly set out by the Committee, is the concern that those who remain in custody are enabled to serve their sentences within a safe environment and be given the opportunity to “successfully reintegrate into the community” upon release.

To ensure that this is the case, Nacro’s Director of External Engagement, in comments to the inquiry, noted that it is the entire pathway – from sentencing to release and beyond – that needs strengthening. “If someone comes into custody, they should straight away, from the minute they are sentenced, have their needs assessed. Build a plan with the child, and work with the YOT and custody staff to look at what they need over the course of their sentence, and what they want to achieve in life.”

The report subsequently examines the range of options for the treatment and needs of those held in custody, and provides recommendations covering: safety and disproportionality in custody, youth justice reform, and resettlement and re-offending.

Safety in Custody: “As the overall numbers have fallen, the proportional challenges in providing safe, secure living and learning accommodation have risen

The report details continued and “significant concerns about the use of separation across the youth estate”, and the subsequent impact on those concerned. The Committee “finds it unacceptable that data on separation in Young Offender Institutions is not gathered and published” and urges the MoJ to rectify this immediately and to set out, with the Youth Custody Service, what is being done to ensure “coherent and consistent practice across the estate.”

With regards to “pain-inducing techniques” specifically designed to cause pain to children and young people held in custody, we have been very clear on our stance that we seek “an absolute prohibition on the use of pain-inducing restraint techniques on children in custody.” There is no circumstance in which the use of these techniques is acceptable.

We therefore welcome the Committee’s recommendation that the MoJ and the Youth Custody Service “remove pain-inducing techniques from the MMPR syllabus without further delay. The Ministry and Youth Custody Service should also set out a timeframe for conclusion of the review, redesign and delivery of the new syllabus.”

The report sets out further recommendations on safety in custody, including:

  • In cases where “the mental health of offenders is a substantial factor in their self-harm or their level of risk to staff or fellow offenders”, the MoJ work with the Department of Health and Social Care to identify mechanisms to ensure appropriate placement for individuals who require treatment and to make sure that young offenders are in the right place to receive the treatment they need
  • The MoJ and Youth Custody Service should set out what measures they have put in place specifically to address self-harm
  • The MoJ and the Youth Custody Service set out the reasons why use of force is rising in youth custodial institutions and what steps are being taken to ensure that any such use is necessary and proportionate
  • Further, the MoJ and Youth Custody Service must conduct a light-touch review of monitoring and governance processes in place for use of force involving children and young people in all the institutions that hold them to establish that those processes are sufficiently robust

Racial Disproportionality: “There is clearly a very strong perception of disproportion among black and minority ethnic prisoners”

As we highlighted in our response to the initial report, racial disproportionality is prevalent – and increasing – across the criminal justice system, with the report focusing on “disproportionality of outcomes” for those from BAME communities. At the time of publishing in 2016, the Lammy Review (which looked at the treatment of, and outcomes for BAME individuals in the criminal justice system), raised particular concern with the growth in the BAME proportion of young people in custody – from 25% to 41% between 2006 and 2016. This figure had continued to grow substantially, as of June 2020. We therefore reiterate our original comment that far more needs to be done to tackle racial disproportionality and the stark differences of outcome for different groups within the youth justice system, and support today’s recommendation by the Committee supporting the MoJ’s commitment to implement – in full – the remainder of the Lammy Review’s recommendations, “within the next 12 months.”

Additionally, the Committee calls on the Government in today’s report to:

  • Provide a full and detailed timetable setting how and when those recommendations will be implemented
  • Supplement this timetable with an outline of how sufficient resources will be provided in the immediate and longer terms to ensure that disproportionality in the system is reduced now and remains so in the future

Youth Justice Reform

As we detailed during the inquiry, it is essential that youth justice reform must concentrate on creating a nurturing environment that allows for young people to “be able to concentrate on education.”

It is imperative that “the environment must be safe, and urgent action needs to be taken to tackle increasing violence and self-harm. There should always be sufficient resources and staff to ensure that the entitlement to education is not compromised due to issues relating to security or the regime.”

Resettlement and Reoffending

The report is clear on the need to ensure that “children have access to appropriate Employment, Training and Education services” upon release from custody. We welcome this recognition and are clear that access to a variety of high-quality pathways and progression routes while held in custody and on release, must be a fundamental component of the Government’s efforts to supporting young people to achieve and move forwards and reduce the risk of re-offending.

This is critical for all children, but the challenges can be particularly great for the unacceptably high number of children held in custody on remand, who face significant disruption and uncertainty, often impacting their learning opportunities. Approximately 65% of children held on remand do not go on to receive a custodial sentence, which in itself is incredibly damaging. We reiterate our call for remand to custody to only ever be used as the absolute last resort and where it is unsafe for children to return to their homes, alternative community options should be available.

We also believe that there are a number of factors that must be taken into account so as to ensure the effective resettlement of young people leaving custody. Inter-agency collaboration is vital, which means coordination across all resettlement services. Co-creating – with the young person and their family – individualised and person-centred resettlement plans, customised for the individual, is also essential. This approach is critical to delivering the personal and structural resettlement support, including access to education, training and accommodation.

Regarding the report’s recommendations, we welcome the Committee’s call for collaboration between the MoJ, Youth Custody Service and Youth Justice Board to ensure that “all children and young people have adequate access to education and purposeful activity while in custody and that meaningful opportunities continue through into the community.” This must be high quality and tailored to each individual to help ensure each young person is on a pathway to future learning, work and success.

Having somewhere safe and secure to live is critical on release from custody, but it is still the case that some children do not know where they are going to live until just before release, causing unnecessary stress and anxiety and leading to other support not being in place. We therefore support the recommendation made by HM Inspectorate of Prisons and Probation that:

  • The MoJ develop a national accommodation strategy for children released from custody
  • The MoJ set out when the ‘transition from youth to adult custody’ policy framework will be published and how it will be implemented across the youth and adult estates

The full report can be found here. If you have any questions please get in contact with policy@nacro.org.uk.