The Youth Justice Board, from the 1st December, has made some strategic changes to the way that the sentencing works within the Youth Justice System (YJS). The Youth Rehabilitation Order is now going to operate instead of nine separate sentences that existed, including the Supervision order, the curfew order and the action plan order. The YJB (2009) states that 'it will combine 18 requirements into one generic sentence. Having 18 requirements within one Order will simplify sentencing, providing clarity and coherence while improving the flexibility of interventions'. The YRO also allows opportunity for reparation to be included, giving scope for victims' needs to be considered.
The YJB believes that 'If used effectively, the YRO should not only help reduce reoffending, but should also contribute to a reduction in the number of young people in custody' (YJB, 2009). With the YRO only just coming into force it is unable to provide a valid argument as to whether it will work instead of a custodial alternative in the reduction of crime but it appears to, in theory, tackle the problems that existed within the old sentencing structure. Unfortunately due to the date that it came into force any youth charged with an offence up to the 30th November will not be covered under the new scheme which means that whilst waiting for sentencing they cannot be given the chance that they may need to steer away from future crimes.
Youth Restorative Disposals are currently being held in 8 places across the country in a pilot study, a couple of these places include Greater Manchester, North Wales and Nottinghamshire. The YRD holds 10-17 year olds accountable on the spot for minor crime and disorder without formally entering the criminal justice system (DirectGov, 2009). This attempt at a short sharp shock tactic is again another programme that can only hope to reduce offending and recidivism rates for the future but as a pilot study it can only be linked to the areas it is being held in and hope that if effective it can become country wide.
The debate concerning the building of more prisons cannot be agreed with. Prisons do not provide cost effective ways of reducing crimes being committed and do not help the recidivism rates. The evidence highlighted earlier shows that there are better and more informed methods targeted at youths.
Prison no matter the age of the offender always seems to have an issue of labelling those who have committed an offence. It is very difficult for an individual to place themselves back into society once they have a criminal record; this is heightened by the fact being the individual has spent time in prison. With society being unforgiving to those who have committed an offence, which has landed them in prison; it becomes harder to gain meaningful employment and to enable them to continue without turning back to criminal behaviour.
The important point to make is that neither prison nor other sentencing structures can lay claim that they solely reduce reoffending rates although if the agencies within the youth criminal justice system were able to work reliably together they are more likely to deter individuals from committing further crimes, enabling them to provide for themselves. The key, however, is to target locations that are prominent to youth crime and focus on teaching the younger generation before they hit the age at risk of heading into crime.
OPSI – Office of Public Sector Information – Criminal Justice Act 1982