In the Guardian, a suggestion that youth justice policy is driven more by political expediency than children’s best interests:
Locking up teenage offenders is largely a waste of money with only a small proportion of the 3,350 currently held needing to be imprisoned to protect the public, according to a leading figure on the government’s own Youth Justice Board.
Jon Fayle, who until his resignation in November was officially responsible for cutting the number of children in custody, blamed the political climate for the number held in England and Wales.
It called to mind a passage from a Howard League report several years ago, ‘The Case against Secure Training Centres’. (‘STCs’ are prisons for 12-15-year-olds, run under PFI.)
Prior to the General Election the Labour Party had been opposed to the creation of STCs. In 1995 Tony Blair, then Shadow Home Secretary, said:
“It is really short-sighted beyond belief to invest large sums of money in building new penal institutions for 200 young people when we are neglecting programmes that are far less expensive and which may diminish the numbers that go to such institutions.”
The Howard League had hopes therefore that the new Labour Government would…cancel the STC programme. However on 3 July 1997 Jack Straw announced that Medway and four other proposed secure training centres would go ahead. He said the contract tied the Government into “significant monthly payments” from April 1998 regardless of whether the facility was used or not.
And then, presumably on the basis that they’d got to pay for them anyway, the government abolished doli incapax and started filling ’em up.