The review draws upon a series of case studies from a range of high-performing jurisdictions in order to exemplify institutions, interventions and programmes which have either been shown to have a positive impact on reoffending or indirectly contribute towards these acknowledged or proven high-performing systems.
Based upon these case studies, a number of key features of provision for young offenders in custody emerge which, within their own contexts, contribute to a successful approach. These include:
- Education is placed at the heart of an institution's focus.
- Interventions are personalised and targeted.
- Staff are given multidisciplinary training, often to graduate level, and custodial staff are also involved in the education of offenders.
- Institutions are relatively small, and are split into units which are even smaller.
- There are high ratios of staff to offenders.
- Offenders are assigned mentors who work with them up to 12 months after their release.
- Activities within the community are a key aspect of provision.
- Residential facilities are locally distributed, situated reasonably close to the homes of young offenders.
Building on this analysis, a number of recommendations are made in terms of the future of youth custody in England and Wales:
- Education must be made central to all provision of custody for young offenders: institutions should provide sufficient educational content for their residents; security staff should be at the very least multidisciplinary and at best a core part of the educational remit; and education should include social/life skills as well as academic learning (in particular numeracy/literacy).
- Institutions must be sufficiently small in size to cater properly for their residents, with high levels of staff to residents: they should be locally situated in order to maintain links between offenders and their families.
- Reintegration into the community must be a focus from the outset of a custodial sentence: staff and mentors should be linked to offenders both for their time in custody and for a significant period of time afterwards; and institutions should engage with their communities in order to secure education, training and/or employment for offenders upon their release.