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Crimcast is a virtual resource devoted to critical conversations about criminology and criminal justice issues. Our blogposts, twitter feeds, podcasts and other content provide an overview of trends, research, commentary and events of interest to criminal justice practitioners, academics and the general public. CrimCast is sponsored by The Center for Crime and Popular Culture, St. Francis College, Brooklyn, NY.

Filtering by Tag: East Moor

Student Post: Youth Crime: Is Imprisonment a Suitable and Effective Solution? 

Nickie Phillips

Issues surrounding youth crime and justice are one of the longest-standing and most highly debated areas within criminology.  There are many arguments surrounding the imprisonment of children and young offenders, particularly in relation to custodial sentences and whether they are appropriate and effective. There is no single, definitive principle of youth justice in the UK, but according to Hall, the philosophies of youth justice are four-fold and include welfare, punishment, rehabilitation and education.  There is much controversy surrounding the punishment of young offenders in particular, and emphasis is placed on different factors according to changes in time and politics.  This is particularly significant in recent years with the ‘punitive shift’.

As a result of this punitive shift since the 1990’s, the UK has seen considerable focus on punitive approaches in managing youth crime driven by an intense desire for stricter punishment and responsibilisation of young offenders.  According to Goldson, however, the imprisonment of children and young offenders is merely a matter of political convenience and the result of incompetent responses to, and failure to manage, youth crime through other methods.  This approach is supported by current government plans to build a super-prison to manage over 300 children and young offenders.  According to the Howard League, however, children’s prisons are volatile and dangerous environments which are ineffective at rehabilitating young offenders and are not suitable environments for young people. It is argued, therefore, that more emphasis should be placed on alternatives and that imprisonment is not an appropriate response to youth crime.

During a recent visit to East Moor Secure Children’s Unit, it appears that the four philosophies underpinning youth justice are attempting to be implemented in practice; but how effective are these philosophies in reducing youth crime?

According to the statistics for East Moor, 70% of young offenders released from the unit re-offend within the first year and many are subsequently returned to the unit.  Much emphasis is placed on education at East Moor and on getting the young people to address their offending behavior. However, if recidivism rates remain this high, it has to be asked how effective the imprisonment of young offenders is, particularly in relation to rehabilitation and how this can be addressed. The cost, (per person/per annum) of detaining a young person in an institute such as East Moor is up to £220,000. As a result, if the risk of a young person leaving the institute and reoffending is so high, arguably, imprisonment is not an effective method of rehabilitation and the money could be better spent on identifying and implementing alternative strategies.

During the visit, it was also highlighted that 90% of young offenders admitted to East Moor come from families with a recent history of offending behavior.  Perhaps, this highlights the ‘welfare’ philosophy of youth crime and therefore more emphasis should be placed on managing the welfare of young people and addressing the external factors which may contribute to them committing crimes and ending up in institutions. If a young person is admitted to East Moor, or a similar institute, then returned to the same environment and circumstances which may have contributed to their initial offending their chances of re-offending remain high.

Another factor for consideration when addressing the welfare of young offenders surrounds the disproportionately high number of children in these units suffering from mental health or conduct disorders which may be a significant contributory factor in offending.  The resources at East Moor are good, with medical and mental health professionals available as required. However, 20% of the young people there have self-harmed and, as a result, it can be argued that locking up young people with such issues is only going to exacerbate the problems, therefore ethical implications surrounding the welfare needs of young offenders need addressing. It may be more appropriate for these issues to be addressed in the community, and incidentally, by concentrating on treating these underlying problems, the risk of repeat offending would reduce as a result.

The punitive shift may explain why recidivism rates for youth crime remain high despite the education and support provided by institutes such as East Moor.  Perhaps, Goldson’s claim that prison is a political convenience - a result of failure to manage youth crime through other means - may offer some insight into what the focus should be in order to change the future of youth justice for the better.  However, the government’s plans to introduce a super-prison for youths would only exacerbate the problem, continuing to focus on punitive approaches, and avoid dealing with the underlying issues surrounding youth crime and justice and finding suitable alternatives.

Questions:

  1. What are your views on the government’s plans to introduce a super-prison for young offenders?
  2. Do you think that punishment is an appropriate way of managing youth crime or should more focus be placed on alternatives?

 

Post by Rebecca Baird-Parker

 

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net by  sakhorn38

Student Post: Should We Lock Children Up? – A reflection from a trip to East Moor Secure Children’s Centre

Nickie Phillips

There has been debate over recent years about whether or not it is acceptable or effective to give custodial sentences to children and young people under the age of 18. Earlier this month I had the privilege to visit East Moor which is a local Secure Children’s Centre and only one of twelve in the United Kingdom. The visit taught me a lot about children in custody and it was completely not what I had expected.  

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The site at East Moor is unique in Europe due to the fact that it has three custodial centres from past to future all on the same site. There is an old reformatory from the 1800s still present very close to the current centre which was built in the 1970s and refurbished in 1997, although it is not in use anymore but it gives us an insight into the history of custodial centres for young people.  As well as this, they are presently in the process of building a brand new centre for September 2014 which will house both boys and girls and be an improvement on the facilities in use today. One thing that was mentioned that was significantly negative was the presence of pillars throughout some of the communal areas which meant that the children were not always visible to the members of staff, and they said that pillars would not be built into the new facility for this reason.

East Moor is a male only centre and has a school on site that teaches things from Maths to Design Technology and Art. The classes tend to be with two teachers/members of staff and usually two pupils but no more than four at a time. The centre has incident alarms that can be set off by any member of staff by something attached to their belt at any time, and this was set off during our visit – it is certainly an effective alarm sound! This is so that the members of staff can sound this if any incident happens that means that they require assistance or presence of another member of staff. The centre has both a new and old ‘block’ in which the bedrooms are situated, and part of the old block is not in use at all except for one room which is used as a segregation room when needed.

The average length of stay at East Moor in 2013/14 was 107 days for a detention or training order, 42 days for remands, and 353 days for those serving long term sentences. In the past few years there has been a decline in youth custody and this is partially due to judges becoming more comfortable with giving community options to the young offenders, and at East Moor they have seen a decline in the amount of offenders staying there which is why the new centre will have even less bedrooms.

Reasons for locking children up:

  • For their own safety.
  • To prevent crime.
  • As a last resort if no other options have worked when a crime has been committed.
  • Breach of an Anti-Social Behaviour Order.
  • Access to education which they may not have outside.
  • To encourage attitudinal change and not behavioural which should prevent reoffending.
  • To give them positive role models and influences which they may not have outside.

Reasons against locking children up:

  • Imprisonment may damage children both emotionally and psychologically.
  • Mental health issues – imprisonment could make these worse.
  • They are held too far away from family home and society.
  • Expensive option.
  • Centres not always a good enough standard according to Ofsted and HMP.
  • Bad to put kids together – may be bad influences on each other.
  • Violence from other children and also possibly staff.
  • Short lengths of sentences are more damaging for the child and not long enough to help.
  • Criminal record could mean they cannot get jobs in the future.
  • Institutionalisation.
  • Suicide rates can be high in custody.

 

There are many alternatives for locking children up in these kind of custodial sentences. These alternatives will be for their own good and the good of their families as well as saving the government a lot of money as places at East Moor can cost between £200k and £220k per person per annum. Some of the alternatives have focus on the families as well as the offender themselves in order to tackle the cause of offending as the family often have an influence on this.  90% of the admissions to East Moor in the past three years have a family history of reoffending and 39% of admissions to custody had been on the child protection register or had experienced harm, abuse or neglect.

Alternatives:

  • Community options.
  • Counselling for both children and their families.
  • Preventative methods e.gg youth centres.
  • Restorative justice.
  • Don’t prosecute them in the first place – is our criminal age of responsibility right?
  • Community penalties e.g. litter picking.
  • Tags – cheaper and less emotionally and psychologically harming.

 

Questions:

  1. What do you think about locking children up?
  2. Do you think that custodial sentences for children and young people are a good or bad thing?
  3. What do you think should happen in the future?

 

Post by Zoe Cox

Image Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net by Naypong