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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Secure Colleges: A shift in Framework of Youth Justice detention in England

In February 2014 the government published its response to the consultation paper Transforming Youth Custody: Putting Education at the Heart of Detention, revealing a shift in framework of custodial detention for young offenders in England.  As of February 2014, under the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, the government proposes one of the largest in modern reforms of youth justice; the introduction of a framework of secure colleges to house and educate all young offenders.

The issue in brief.

With almost 1,200 young offenders in custody in England and Wales the government have decided to tackle high reoffending rates and expensive secure accommodation facilities with the introduction of new Secure Colleges.

Reportedly 71% of young offenders leave custody and go on to reoffend within 12 months of their release and with an average annual cost for one young offender of £100,000 it has been recognised that the current framework is not having an efficient reduction of recidivism or cost value. Furthermore with in some cases only 12 hours of education provided a week in Young Offender Institute’s (YOI’s) and over half of 15-17 year olds have literacy and numeracy levels of a 7-11 year old, it is evident that the current system is not preparing young offenders with the skills they require for successful rehabilitation and reintegration. 

Nick Clegg MP summarises for BBC News (2014) “Some offenders spend less than one day a week in the classroom. By increasing the amount of time young offenders spend learning, we can help them move away from crime, take responsibility for their actions, and rebuild their lives.”

The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) investigated the hours of education received by young offenders in YOI’s and data sourced from a freedom of information request exposed that only 1 in 9 young offenders were actually provided with the 15 hours of contracted education a week. Below is a graph produced by the CSJ to demonstrate an average numbers of hours of education provided per week for each young offender in HM Prison Service Young Offenders’ Institutions in 2011-12.
(Click to Enlarge Photo)
 Source: Centre for Social Justice, 2014.

In some cases the average hours are as low as 8-10 hours a week in contrast with the average 30 hours provided in mainstream education.

Read more about the Centre for Social Justice’s investigation HERE 

The current ‘secure estate’.

Currently there are three types of secure accommodation available for young offenders sentenced to detention in custody.

·         Secure Children’s Homes (SCH’s)

SCH’s provide secure accommodation run by local authorities for 10-14 year olds, varying in size from 8 – 40 bed units. These offer 30 hours of education and training a week and cost on average £200,000 a year per young offender. As of June 2014 there are 105 young offenders in SCH’s

·         Secure Training Centres (STC’s)

STC’s accommodate 12-17 year olds in larger units of 50-80 and currently house 261 young offenders. These are all run by private companies and again provide 20 hours of education and training a week. STCs are also costly, on average £160,000 a year per young offender.

·         Young Offender Institutes (YOI’s)

YOI’s houses young offenders between 15- 21 years old in wings of 30-60, much more like the adult prison setting. They are run by HM Prison Services and private companies and are contracted to provide 15 hours of education per week, costing on average £60,000 per young offender, per year. With the highest proportion of offenders (738 as of June 2014) and the lowest time allocated for education and training purposes (even for those required by legislation to be in education) it is not difficult to see how the reoffending rates from YOIs are particularly high.

For more information on youth custody data click HERE

“Putting Education at the Heart of Custody”.

Under the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill (2014) the government have proposed reforms to youth justice system to improve public protection and reduce reoffending. These include plans for the introduction of a Pathfinder Secure College to pilot a framework for new secure educational establishments to replace the previous secure estate. With the primary aims to improve outcomes and reduce costs they put forward an education centred, intense provision following individual learning plans for each offender in purpose built secure accommodation. The colleges will comprise of classrooms, workshops, flexible learning spaces alongside living units for young offenders and intended to house all young offenders (12-17 years old) however separating them by age, gender and vulnerability. Initially the pilot Pathfinder Secure College will be opened in the East Midlands in the spring of 2017 with a 320 place establishment.

(Click to Enlarge Photo)
This image represents the vision of the new pathfinder secure college, a specifically built establishment intended to house and provide education to young offenders in the East Midlands from 2017. Source: Ministry of Justice, 2014.

Secure Colleges aim to integrate multiple agencies to provide a “broad and intensive curriculum to challenge and engage the full range of ages and abilities” (Ministry of Justice, 2014, p.5). With a focus on numeracy and literacy skills, combined with vocational training opportunities and development of interpersonal and practical life skills in an educational setting.  It is hoped that “this will ensure that young people leave with the motivation, self-discipline and independence to commit further studies, training or employment, and to steer clear of crime” (Ministry of Justice, 2014, p.6).

If this scheme is successful then the long term goal is the introduction of secure colleges extending across England and Wales and establishing a network to serve individual regions, eventually withdrawing costly STC’s SCH’s and underperforming YOI’s. The government also hopes that by distributing resources and funding amongst fewer, larger institutions it will be possible to make use of funding more efficiently and bring down the ‘operating cost’ down “significantly below the £100,00 current average” (Ministry of Justice, 2014, p.5).

With the expected opening of the first secure college just under three years away the government proposes changes and improvements to the current secure estate to facilitate youth custody’s main aims – a reduction in reoffending and an increasingly education centred rehabilitation. This intends to provide long term adjustments to youth custody provision which will aid the transition to the new secure colleges.

Primarily it is has been identified that the education provisions in YOI’s are failing to provide the educational requirements for this type of youth custody accommodation, “…consultation responses reaffirmed that it is in YOI’s that education provision is the poorest” (Ministry of Justice, 2014, p.9). In order to improve this new contracts are being drawn up with educational providers and are due to come into force from November 2014. Collaboration and co-ordination between theses education providers, National Offender Management Service (NOMS) and the Youth Justice Board (YJB) is required to maximise the learning opportunities and broaden the curriculum available to young offenders in YOI’s.

“The culture of YOI’s needs to change from being places of detention to places of learning” (Ministry of Justice, 2014, p.9). YOI’s accommodation and services are much closer to the adult prison system in comparison with STC’s and SCH’s, it is suggested that a change in this culture, perpetuated by an integration of education and training delivery with other custodial services. Furthermore, head teachers and senior leadership teams will be posted in YOI’s to service education delivery (these roles will also be integral to the running of secure colleges) working with NOMS who overall will be managing education provision in public sector YOI’s.

Current STC and SCH provision will continue to be available until secure college capacity has been established enough to transfer custody accommodations.

Finally, resettlement is a key issue to address in the changing framework of the youth custody. The emphasis of resettlement has been identified in order to support the young offender in rehabilitation from day one. Instead of the process beginning near the end of a period of detention, the  youth criminal justice system will be integrate their communication and services to prepare and work towards a resettlement plan for each young offender. They plan to do this by vital changes to sentence planning and casework processes in custody. Additionally to aid resettlement education, training or employment will be secured for young offenders to start immediately upon their release. This aims to continue the development of skills and learning that has taken place within secure colleges into the community and will be bolstered by more effective use of ‘release on temporary licence’. ROTL allows a risk assessed young offender to be granted leave of custody for an agreed time to undertake activities to support their resettlement such as; attending school, college or job interviews, visiting housing placements and enrolling on apprenticeships.

The proposed changes to the framework of youth justice present a shift in focus from detention to education centred rehabilitation. It aims to tackle high reoffending rates and low literacy and numeracy levels of young offenders by introducing a network of secure colleges built purposely to accommodate and educate. A drastic overhaul of our current secure estate structure is due to take place with the withdrawal of STC’s, SCH’s and a reduction in YOI’s; although in the lead up to this there a number of suggested improvements in education provisions, providers, delivery and an overall more efficient integration of current services.

With the statistics of lack of education and reoffending so shockingly high it is clear that changes are required and the simple logic that increased high quality educational opportunities for young offenders will need to be successfully implemented over the next 3-5 years in order to achieve the primary goals for youth justice set out by the current government.

To access and read Transforming Youth Custody: Putting Education at the Heart of Detention, Government response to the consultation click HERE

S. Allen.
B.A. (Hons) Criminology

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