MP Julian Huppert has welcomed the news that the number of young people in custody more than halved in the last four years and called for similar action to cut the number of women prisoners.
The news comes after the Liberal Democrats pushed for the Youth Justice Board to have more powers to help rehabilitate offenders in the community rather than giving them custodial sentences.
Now Julian wants to see a Women’s Justice Board set up in the next Parliament to take similar action to cut down the number of women in custody.
Julian raised the issue yesterday (Tuesday, February 3) in the Commons after Justice Minister, Andrew Selous revealed that 1,055 under 18s were in custody in November 2014 compared to 2,149 in April 2010 – a drop of 51 per cent.
“That is a substantial decrease and it is very welcome, particularly at a time when crime is falling,” said Julian. “Much of it has been due to the excellent work of the Youth Justice Board, which should be congratulated.”
Later Julian said: “We have been working hard in government to cut re-offending rates; keeping young people out of prison goes a long way to preventing them from picking up bad habits.
“Working to rehabilitate them in their communities where they can be productive and learn new skills helps to get their lives back on track. Not only is this important for the individual concerned, but it makes good economic sense for the taxpayer as well.
“The Youth Justice Board has done some excellent work with young people and I am confident similar work could be put into practice to help women stay out of prison. Women are often the backbone of a family and giving them custodial sentences can have a huge effect on the children.
“It is absolutely clear from the results we have seen with youth offending in a relatively short time that the measures we have put in place are working. We know that prison doesn’t work. People get into a revolving door situation where they go to prison, come out and reoffend and go back in again. We have to cut our prison population and I am very encouraged by the results we are seeing.”
The Liberal Democrats are also floating the idea of introducing a statutory presumption against custodial sentences of under-12 months, barring circumstances when the individual is clearly dangerous. They are confident this would massively reduce the prison population and help do more to cut re-offending.