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  • Author or Editor: Rob Allen x
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This concluding chapter summarises the important policy questions on three overlapping areas: the prevention of serious violent crime by early intervention with children at risk; the assessment of young people once they are in the criminal justice system; and the management and treatment of young offenders in the community and institutions. On early prevention intervention, the chapter concludes that instead of targeting propensity to commit crimes, agencies should strive to provide better services to children and young people. Skilled, accessible help and support for groups overseeing children should be provided under the aegis of properly funded children’s services that integrate the prevention of crime alongside the essential outcomes for children pursued by the Every Child Matters agenda. A wide range of preventive programs needs to be developed wherein the focus is on preventing offending, harm and vulnerability among young people rather than focusing on crime. On the assessment of risk of serious harm, the chapter concludes: that training and awareness for the YOT staff should be intensified: that the focus in assessment on dynamic factors that can be mitigated through an appropriate programme of work should be heightened; and that attention should be given to the voices, needs, wishes and aspirations of children. On the management of young offenders, the chapter concludes that regimes applied to young people should produce positive outcomes and that the Parole Board should apply approaches to decisions on release that are appropriate to the specific needs of the young people. It also concludes that the skills of those working with young offenders should be enhanced to address the needs of the children and that government and agencies should work hand-in-hand to develop a properly joined-up set of measures for young people.

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Since the King’s College seminar, several proposals on sentencing and imprisonment have emerged. Some of these emerged during the height of the political and media concern about violent crimes. The most significant of the proposals was discussed in Chapter 4, wherein it is proposed that sentencing commissions should be established. This endnote summarises and assesses the impact of the results of the consultation launched by the Sentencing Advisory Panel on the future development of penal policy. This consultation centred on key questions such as: what custodial sentences should be imposed, what impact previous convictions should have on sentences, what weight should be given to all different factors of an offence, and whether the vulnerabilities of women offenders should affect sentencing. The result of the consultation is believed to have had a great impact on prison numbers and the prison crisis. In addition to assessing the impact of the consultation on penal policy, the endnote also discusses: the growing criticism of government policy on imprisonment and the Carter Report; the four policy areas of the government that focused on the aspects of community sentences, women offenders, juvenile offenders, and mentally disordered offenders; and the political and social climate during 2008, wherein there was an upward pressure on imprisonment owing to the emergence of violent crimes involving young people.

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The government changes of 2007, which restored to the department responsible for children’s welfare a share in responsibility for youth justice in the United Kingdom, has reopened an important set of questions about agency responsibility for young offenders at the local level. At the same time, there is a renewed and growing interest in how resources are used in the criminal justice system as a whole and whether increasing use of imprisonment represents a cost-effective response to crime. There seems to be widespread agreement that there is too much use of both custodial remands and sentences, but strategies to reduce it have so far met with limited success. Custodial establishments for juveniles fall broadly into three categories: young offender institutions, which form part of the Prison Service; secure children’s homes, largely run by local authorities; and secure training centres, run by private companies. Introducing a radical new way of financing custody for juveniles offers the prospect of substantial reductions in its use, something that other initiatives have failed to produce.

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The case for prevention is at one level self-evident, and there is still widespread support in Europe for Franz von Liszt’s (1905) dictum that the best crime policy is social policy. Comparison of data from the United Nations Children’s Fund against the prison population shows that countries that rank highly on child well-being tend to have lower rates of imprisonment than those who fare badly. International standards also contain some warnings about the potentially harmful consequences of early intervention. The age of criminal responsibility in England and Wales is uncommonly low: in most European countries, responding to children at risk of or involved in delinquency is much more centrally a matter for the social welfare authorities than in the United Kingdom. This chapter looks at specific programmes that focus on families, schools and the community. The examples draw heavily on an excellent review of good practice in youth crime prevention across the European Union and a piece of comparative research undertaken for the Youth Justice Board in the UK.

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The new offender management framework
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The Government has embarked on a programme of radical reform for the probation and prison services with the setting up of a National Offender Management Service (NOMS). The aim is to make the two services work more effectively together, and to promote private sector involvement in ‘corrections’ work.

This groundbreaking volume takes a critical look at the different aspects of the NOMS proposals, at a time when the Government is still working out the detail of its reforms. No other academic publication has scrutinised the NOMS proposals so closely.

Through six contributions from leading experts on probation and criminal justice the report identifies the risks attached to NOMS; assesses the prospects of success; provides ideas for reshaping government plans and presents an authoritative critique of a set proposals that could go badly wrong.

The report will be crucial reading for politicians, civil servants and criminal justice managers. Senior probation and prison staff will find it of particular value.

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Build more prisons? Sentence fewer offenders?

“Tackling prison overcrowding” is a response to controversial proposals for prisons and sentencing set out in by Lord Patrick Carter’s “Review of Prisons”, published in 2007.

The Carter review proposed the construction of vast ‘Titan’ prisons to deal with the immediate problem of prison overcrowding, the establishment of a Sentencing Commission as a mechanism for keeping judicial demand for prison places in line with supply, along with further use of the private sector, including private sector management methods.

“Tackling prison overcrowding” comprises nine chapters by leading academic experts, who expose these proposals to critical scrutiny. They take the Carter Report to task for construing the problems too narrowly, in terms of efficiency and economy, and for failing to understand the wider issues of justice that need addressing. They argue that the crisis of prison overcrowding is first and foremost a political problem - arising from penal populism - for which political solutions need to be found.

This accessible report will be of interest to policy makers, probation practitioners, academics and other commentators on criminal policy.

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What would the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) have made of Frederick Rainer? He was the Hertfordshire printer who 100 years ago told the local police court magistrates that he would take an alcoholic offender under his wing and ensure that he stayed out of trouble and turned up in court. As an innovative supplier of a service, would the pioneer of the probation service have been offered a three-year contract by the Eastern Regional Offender Manager? Or would the lack of economy of scale in his work have made him uncompetitive in the new corrections market? Modern-day probation practitioners are equally uncertain about their future as the new service gets off the ground. This uncertainty was reflected in the contributions made at the colloquium on 1 July 2005.

The shape and structure of NOMS remains unclear at the time of writing, with large question marks still hanging over the likely role of the probation service. Although the Home Secretary has indicated that he means to press ahead with his plans for NOMS, it is unlikely that the role of probation in policy and practice will become clear for some considerable time. The colloquium was reminded that the Carter (2003) report had suggested the establishment of NOMS might take up to five years, so a settled picture may not be available until 2009.

At the present time, there are two distinct visions about the way work currently carried out by the probation service will be carried out under NOMS. Each was explored in the colloquium.

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