Prison should be reserved for most serious young offenders

St Giles Trust welcomes today’s report from the Justice Select Committee calling for a distinctive approach towards working with 18-25 year olds in the criminal justice system.

We have over ten years of experience in supporting some of the most high risk young offenders through our SOS Project working with young people involved in gangs and serious youth violence. After submitting written evidence, we were invited to give verbal evidence to the committee.

Our recommendations included:
• A peer-led approach which uses utilises specially trained, reformed young offenders to provide services to other young people. This means high quality, credible support can be offered to reach some of the most needy, disengaged young people.
• Through the gate support for young people leaving prison – preferably from the same single individual – so that they are not left unsupported on the critical first few days of liberty.
• Work with the whole family as this can sometimes be a critical factor to a young person’s offending behaviour. If wider family issues such as debt, substance misuse and unemployment are addressed this can have positive impact the likelihood of a young person re-offending.

SOS Founder Junior Smart said:

“Young people can find themselves trapped in a vicious cycle of custody and crime. Our current approach is costly and often counterproductive. Prison should be reserved for just the most serious young offenders and if we are going to send them there, they need come out in a better position than they were when they went in. Therefore we very much welcome this inquiry and hope it heralds the start of some fresh thinking.”