Government considering turning youth custody into secure colleges

Young black men who are vastly over-represented in youth custody, will be one of the groups who will most benefit from better education and training to turn their backs on crime through new ‘secure colleges’, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has said.

At present, the average cost of a youth custodial place is £100 000 per annum- with some as much as £200 000 – while 73% of young offenders who leave custody reoffend within a year.

The vast majority of 15-17 year olds in Young Offender Institutions have been excluded from school at some point. Half of those in this age group are assessed as having the literacy levels to that expected of a 7 -11 year old, learning disabilities are generally more prevalent among young people in custody, and education provision within the youth estate is patchy.

Many young offenders come from difficult and chaotic backgrounds, and custody may actually provide the opportunity to provide the education, skills, self discipline and self respect to turn those young people who have started off in the wrong direction back in the right one.

With a range of contracts for youth custody coming to an end in the near future, the Government’s new Green Paper provides what Justice Ministry described as the real opportunity to explore a radically different approach.

‘Transforming Youth Custody: Putting Education at the Heart of Detention’ aims to deliver value for the taxpayer, reduce reoffending and set young offenders on the path to a better life.

Mr. Grayling said: “Some youth custodial places cost £200 000, five times the cost of sending a child to a top private school. But nearly three quarters of young people leaving custody reoffend.  

“We cannot go on just doing more of the same, pouring more money into a system doesn't work in the hope of a different outcome. That doesn’t make any sense to the taxpayer, or to the young people who we should be trying to get back on the straight and narrow.”

Mr. Grayling said he wanted “to see new models, perhaps something like secure colleges, providing education in a period of detention, rather than detention with education as an after-thought. I want young people to get the education and skills they need to turn their backs on crime for good.”

The black community make up five percent of the population in England and Wales, yet young black men make up 15 percent of the population in youth custody which is a considerable over-representation.

Professionals from the education sector, custodial services and organisations with an interest in young people are among those being consulted on a complete transformation of youth custody.

The Green Paper looks at the Free Schools programme and Academies programmes – which have secured improvements in education standards well above the national average and turned around some of the worst-performing secondary schools in the country.

The paper says that to improve outcomes for young people in custody, there is need of drawing on this experience and bring new expertise and providers into the market.

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