Shadow Justice Minister David Burrowes MP gave a speech on Thursday on youth justice.  The Telegraph reported his general ambition to see fewer young people in prison but that those people should serve longer sentences, so aiding rehabilitation.

David Burrowes also looked at the very different rates of young people being put in custody.  Why, he said, does Manchester have five times as many young people in custody as Newcastle?  He worries that local decision makers lack incentives to provide interventions that will drive down reoffending rates:

"Most local authorities do not actually know how many young people are in custody. They do not know the costs and do not properly consider whether their policies in prevention and resettlement are making a difference to reducing offending. We have Crime and Disorder Partnerships where the elephant in the room, namely how many young people are in custody and the associated costs is not mentioned. For example, does Lambeth know that on 31st May 2008, there were 70 of their young people locked up but in Hackney there were 40? Do these authorities consider that the weighted average bed costs mean that tax payers are spending approximately £5.25 million on keeping these young people locked up? Yet Hackney is spending £2.7 million. Is there anything that Hackney is doing which Lambeth is not? The reality is that local authorities have no incentive to know because they do not have any responsibility for the custody budget.

The point is made even clearer if we look at the statistics for Manchester and Newcastle. Again on the 31st May 2008, Manchester had 104 young people in custody, but staggeringly, Newcastle had a mere 18 in custody. This means that tax payers are spending approximately £7.8 million to keep young Mancunians locked up, but only £1.3 million to lock up young Geordies. Is it that Geordies are better than Mancunians? Whilst Alan Sheerer may have a view on that, what does seem to be the case is that Newcastle has a number of intervention projects which may well be having a profound affect on custody numbers. The problem is that the local decision makers in Newcastle and Manchester do not have the financial incentive to provide long term sustainable interventions which will drive down re-offending rates and in so doing, reduce numbers of young people in custody."

Picture 11
Tim Montgomerie

Download a PDF of David Burrowes' full NACRO Speech 2009

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