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Reducing child imprisonment in England and Wales - lessons from abroad.

11th September 2009

Out of Trouble: Reducing child imprisonment in England and Wales - lessons from abroad is a new report from the Prison Reform Trust (UK) which identifies a number of successful international approaches to reducing child and youth imprisonment and cutting crime.

The report examines policies and programmes in countries with effective youth justice systems. The report also looks at how policymakers in Canada and New York responded to costly and damaging levels of youth custody by completely rethinking their approach to dealing with youth crime.

  • In New York State USA, the total number of children in custody declined 27% between 2000 and 2006, and the state has closed four juvenile jails. With the support of their political masters, public servants have sought to increase the number of children diverted from prosecution and introduce new alternatives to prison including functional family therapy for children sentenced for serious offences and after-school centres for those on remand.
  • In Canada the government made a brave decision to push through new legislation in order to reduce the number of children young people in prison. New laws passed in 2002 enshrined the principle of custody as a last resort and the aim of sentencing as promoting “rehabilitation and reintegration”. The rate of admission to secure custody fell by a third from 2003/4 to 2007/8 and youth crime has declined since 2003.

This report has been commissioned from the International Centre for Prison Studies as part of the Prison Reform Trust’s Out of Trouble programme. The aim of this five year programme is to reduce the number of children and young people imprisoned in the UK. The programme is supported by The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund.

Download the report here

Previous publications from the Out of Trouble programme include Children: Innocent until proven guilty, a report on the overuse of remand for children in England and Wales and how it can be addressed - and also Criminal Damage: why we should lock up fewer children which calls for the transfer of control of the national budget for child custody from the Youth Justice Board to local authorities - who already control budgets for non-custodial sentences - because local authorities would have a greater incentive to prevent offending and to offer robust alternatives to custody if they had to foot the bill for every child in their area who goes to jail.

Source: www.prisonreformtrust.org.uk

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