Repeat offenders

May 22, 2008 at 10:53 am | Posted in British Politics, Crime, New Labour | Leave a comment
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Tokenistic and superficial – Richard Garside’s withering appraisal of Labour’s attempts to deal with the causes of crime, as opposed to just banging people up in prison. Why, after 11 years and significant investment by the government, hasn’t there been any measurable impact on the level of youth crime? Garside argues that Labour’s obsession with trying to achieve it through the criminal justice system (and in so doing drawing money away from social programmes that could prove more effective) is a prime culprit:

But the most striking fact, given all the time and money spent by Labour on youth justice in the past decade, is that there has been no measurable impact on the level of reported youth offending. Since 2001 the same proportion of children – a quarter – year on year admit to having committed one offence or more. Looking further back in time the picture remains roughly the same since at least the early 1990s. Put simply, the government has spent 10 years reforming the youth justice system, spending several billion pounds, to no noticeable effect.

The lesson of the last 10 years is that seeking to solve the problem of youth crime through the criminal justice system, however tough, is unlikely to be effective. A feature of Labour’s youth justice reforms of the past decade is that money that previously would have been available to spend on social programmes has been diverted into youth justice spend. Some 15% of funding for Youth Offending Teams, for instance, is drawn from social services budgets. The youth justice system has, in effect, become a de facto social service designed to provide a range of social support services to some of the most troubled, troublesome and needy of young people.

For the more time-rich among you, he’s produced a report for the Centre for Crime & Justice Studies on what Labour has done over the 10 years and how it should change its approach.

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