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Alternatives to Prison: Young Offenders

Volume 478: debated on Monday 23 June 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice what steps his Department is taking to reduce the number of people under the age of 21 years in prison for non-violent offences. (212375)

The Criminal Justice Act 2003 gave sentencers more options and greater flexibility in imposing adult community sentences which provide a tough and effective alternative to custody. The Government are allocating further funds, including £40 million to probation in 2008-09, so that sentencers can be confident that the resources are in place to deliver effective community punishments. In addition the Government are also providing £13.9 million to fund at least six intensive alternative to custody projects over the next three years.

We have also revised the community sentencing structure for young people to provide disposals that offer sentencers a strong community alternative to custody. We have introduced the referral order which is the main disposal for young defendants pleading guilty and convicted for the first time, the Intensive Supervision and Surveillance Programme which caters for serious and persistent young offenders and Intensive Fostering, both of which can be attached to community orders. Intensive fostering is being piloted by the Youth Justice Board in three areas and provides a highly intensive programme for serious and persistent young offenders whose home environment is contributing to their offending behaviour.

The Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 introduces a new generic community sentence for young people, the Youth Rehabilitation Order (YRO). The YRO is designed to increase the options available to deal with young offenders in the community with effective and tailored interventions. Under the new order intensive supervision and surveillance and intensive fostering are set out as specific alternatives to custody.