T2A response to the Ministry of Justice consultation on Transforming Management of Young Adults in Custody


T2A has published its response to the Ministry of Justice’s consultation on Transforming Management of Young Adults in Custody. 

 

T2A firmly disagrees with the Ministry of Justice’s proposal to remove the distinct sentence and provision of Detention in a Young Offender Institution (DYOI) and to mix young adults within the general prison population.

 

The government has said is committed to evidence-based policy, but in this consultation does not provide the necessary detail on the evidence, costs, risks and benefits of its proposed alternative approach. We strongly advocate that the government consults again when it is able to provide detail of what the proposed changes will mean in practice and how it proposes to ensure that the necessary safeguards for this age group are put in place – via new legislation, prison service instructions, and staff training.

 

In addition, T2A believes it is now time for the Ministry of Justice to develop and to consult on a comprehensive set of policies for dealing appropriately and effectively with young adults throughout the criminal justice system. It is only within the context of such policies that sensible and sustainable plans for the use and implementation of custodial sentences can be made.

 

In its response, T2A notes the recent developments in criminal justice policy and practice that recognise the distinct needs of young adults:

 

  • The Sentencing Council for England and Wales now includes, since 2011, ‘lack of maturity’ as a mitigating factor in the sentencing of adults. This was the most cited factor by the judiciary in sentencing decisions for young adults in 2012;
  • The Crown Prosecution Service’s 2013 Code of Conduct includes, for the first time, ‘maturity’ as a factor for consideration in culpability decisions on whether to charge a young adult within its public interest test;
  • More than 11,000 copies of T2A’s 2013 ‘practice guide on taking account of maturity’ for probation practitioners have been requested by probation trusts, and are being used across England and Wales to inform pre-sentence reports and young adult appropriate sentence plans;
  • More than a dozen probation trusts, including the four biggest (Greater Manchester, Wales, London and Staffordshire and West Midlands), have recently commissioned Trust-wide services that are specific to young adults, recognising that doing so ensures their services are more effective and cost-efficient;
  • The Youth Justice Board is rolling out its ‘Youth to Adult Transitions Framework’ across England and Wales, to ensure more effective transitions between youth offending teams and adult probation services; and
  • Many Police and Crime Commissioners have specifically commissioned young adult services in their areas to address the particular needs of this age group.

 

T2A’s consultation response notes that these developments have been driven by practitioners, and have taken place despite the lack of a central Ministry of Justice strategy for young adults, and without new primary legislation focussed on this age group. Rather, they have occurred because the evidence for doing so is now so strong, and because budget pressures demand smarter ways of working effectively.

 

T2A welcomes the consultation’s recognition in its consultation of the importance of the transition between youth and adult justice services, and the acknowledgement that young adults have variable levels of developmental maturity.

 

However, in relation to the Ministry of Justice’s key proposal to mix young adults within the general prison population, we are concerned that this seems to be premised largely on inconsistent and anecdotal evidence that mixing sometimes helps to reduce violence, and an assumption that closeness to home improves resettlement, which is not supported by robust evidence. In addition, there is no detail or evidence put forward as to how the Ministry of Justice’s proposed alternative approach of mixing young adults within the general prison estate would better serve this age group, nor how the age-specific needs of this group would be met.

 

The needs of young adults and the available evidence seem to be secondary to the Ministry of Justice’s urgency to deliver these proposed changes in order to align the young adult population with the procurement process for contracts for resettlement services early next year, as part of the Ministry of Justice’s transforming rehabilitation programme.

 

Such a sudden and wholesale move away from distinct provision for this age group, with no proposed statutory or other safeguards, is a high-stakes gamble that requires considerably more scrutiny and risk-assessment for the sake of the young adults involved, prison staff, delivery organisations and society at large.

 

Read the full response here

 

For more information about T2A’s position in relation to young adults in custody, read our new report ‘Young Adults in Custody: The Way Forward’ by Rob Allen, or email [email protected]