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  • 1. Is incarceration the best thing for young offenders? Louis Staples
  • 2. Young offenders in Scotland
    • Contrary to press coverage, only 1% of Scottish children are serious offenders
    • The centre for these youth offenders is Polmont Young Offenders Institution
    • The vision at Polmont is that of providing a safe, supportive and learning environment which facilitates personal change and development.
    • The focus on learning and making a personal change are important because 48% of inmates have that of or below reading age of 11 years old and 82% have the writing age of 11.
    • This means that over 60% of inmates lack the skills needed for 96% of jobs.
    • Finding employment and a place in society is key to preventing re offending.
  • 3. Conclusions
    • While the total number of youth offenders is falling, the number of persistent offenders is rising .
    • Therefore a major target should be reducing re offending, so perhaps incarceration is necessary as a deterrent, and a place for people to change their behaviour patterns instead of being allowed to spiral out of control.
    • As many as 85% of offences are alcohol related, and incarceration may help young people to deal with their problems.
    • However, re offending rates are over 65% so more needs to be done.
    • STV report into the rise of persistent offenders-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Evsr3GljyBE&feature=fvst
  • 4. Young offenders in England
    • The English system is similar to the Scottish system, however there are several differences.
    • England has a higher percentage of young offenders than Scotland, and higher re offending rated at 75%
    • Experts have put this down to England ‘demonizing’ young offenders.
    • The Scottish Children’s Hearing System is relatively informal compared to the English version, making it easier to stop a situation escalating through involving the child in the decisions that are made.
    • Critics of the English system look at the Scottish system and say that England needs to make use of more rehabilitation methods (such as speech therapy, used in Polmont, which can reduce re offending by up to 50%)
    • However, there are pockets of success, such as Eastmuir detention centre, where the re offending rate is below 50%.
  • 5. Young offenders in Finland
    • Within Finland young offenders under 15 are dealt with by child welfare authorities, with the system of criminal justice only being applied to those aged 15-17 .
    • Finland has incredibly low rates of incarceration and crime .
    • Prisons in Finland are light and airy, and young prisoners have plenty of activities besides therapy and education to occupy them.
    • Both the number of young people committing crimes and the number of young people in custody are decreasing.
    • Though the number of young people in custody is deceasing faster, suggesting that Finland has found other ways of dealing with young offenders.
    • Very few offenders re offend in Finland, meaning that incarceration has helped them change their behaviour and find a place in society.
  • 6. Young offenders in Texas, USA
    • Children may be placed in a correctional facility, while they await their appearance in court.
    • Once in court the child can be sentenced to up to 40 years in prison, and can also be tried as an adult, at the attorney general’s discretion – This seems unfair and overly harsh .
    • Under 18s may also be placed on death row, out of all under 18s that have been executed in the US since 1973, 60% have been from Texas. This shows that even within the US, Texas has an extreme approach to dealing with Youth offenders.
    • Texas has the highest youth prison population in the whole of the USA.
  • 7. Conclusions
    • Texas has a more hard line approach in dealing with youth offenders, though there is little evidence to suggest it is working.
    • Critics say that the over use of incarceration has stereotyped groups such as African American males as criminals.
    • The option of using the death penalty on an under 18 seems a step too far.
    • The lengthy sentences some youths receive make it impossible for them to integrate into their communities when released.
    • The power that rests with one person (district attorney) could be argued as unfair and dangerous .
  • 8. Overall Conclusions
    • Incarceration can be seen to have success in areas such as Finland where criminals are rehabilitated and not punished.
    • However, the over use of incarceration and lack of emphasis on rehabilitation can lead to high re offending rates, and criminals being demonised within communities.
    • Therefore the answer the question of whether incarceration is best for criminals is a complicated one as it depends on where the prisoner is in the world and the type of care that they receive.
    • It is fair to say that the method of dealing with offenders in Finland is a successful one, which produces by far the best results both for the general public and prisoners.
    • It is a matter of finding other ways to deal with offenders besides prison, but if incarceration is necessary, treating them fairly and providing them with the care that they need to make a change in their life.