The problem of crime

"Present government strategy for dealing with youth crime is centred on the use of custodial sentences" (Sale, 2002). This assignment will examine juvenile custodial trends, including statistical data and political issues, considering the arguments for and against the effectiveness of incarceration in relation to the problem of crime. The practice of holding young teenagers on remand in adult prisons overrides widely spoken belief (rhetoric) about the negative impact of jails on young people (Harker, 2002).

For more than 20 years there has been concern about the use of custody for young boys, exacerbated by a series of scandals involving bullying and suicides. Despite evidence that prison conditions are conducive to abuse, self-injury and further criminal activity, successive governments have allowed the number of teenagers held in prison on remand to rise.

The implementation of two new statutes; the Crime and Disorder Act (1998) and the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act (1999) have resulted in an overhaul of the youth justice system in England and Wales. Under the 1998 Act, the aim of the youth justice system is defined as: "preventing offending by young people" (www. howard. league. org. uk). The new system is underpinned by an emphasis on early intervention and greater inter-agency working. An example of inter-agency working is the introduction of Youth Offending Teams to each Local Authority area.

Implemented in April 2000, Youth Offending Teams include professionals from the probation service, social workers, police officers, education and health staff. The Local Authority may call upon other agencies to provide specific services as required; for example local agencies specialising in drug and alcohol addiction, mental health charities and mentoring projects – this gives scope for the involvement of and participation by a number of multi-disciplines (Pitts, 1999).

The responsibilities of Youth Offending Teams include supporting police reprimands and warnings; supervision of community sentences; offering an appropriate adult service; providing bail information, supervision and support; remand fostering and approved lodgings during pre-trial period; court work and the preparation of reports; and undertaking post-release supervision following a custodial sentence (Pitts, 1999).

Whilst the 1998 Crime and Disorder Act does not specifically mention deterrence, research indicates that magistrates use sentencing decisions as a form of deterrence from committing crime (Parker et al, 1989 & Fagan 1991 in Pitts, 1999). There are two forms of deterrence.