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James Cleverly: How we are working to reduce youth offending rates in London

CLEVERLY JAMES James Cleverly has been London Assembly Member for Bexley and Bromley since May 2008 and is Boris Johnson's Ambassador for Youth.

I was really pleased to read earlier this week on ConservativeHome the article by Humfrey Malins about Young Offender Institutions and his new pamphlet, Revolving Door.

He is completely right in his assessment of the current shortfalls in the youth justice system and has highlighted a number of areas crying out for improvement.  I am pleased to say that here in London we are all ready in the process of implementing a major plan to address many of the issues that Humfrey raises.

During the election campaign Boris made the reduction of youth crime a top priority and a number of us at City Hall have been working up policies to turn that commitment into reality.  Our recent policing successes in taking knives off the street through Operation Blunt 2 and reducing transport crime through our extra funding of transport police have been high profile, but we have also been working on a range of preventative measures in parallel to the policing initiatives.  These were published in November 2008 under the title “Time for Action”.

One of the key plans within “Time for Action” is called Project Daedalus and it specifically aims to reduce the re-offending rates amongst those in Feltham YOI.  We have negotiated with the MoJ, Youth Justice Board, London Councils and others to trial our plan in a 30-bed wing in Feltham YOI.

The key elements of Project Daedalus are:

  • A triage of inmates in the first 24 hours of their sentence to properly assess their desire to change and identify educational and training needs.
  • Physical segregation of those who want to go straight from the general YOI population to prevent the “university of crime” effect.
  • Enhanced training and education regime on our separate wing with six extra members of staff (funded through the LDA).
  • The contracting of private sector resettlement brokers to help the young offenders get jobs or training positions.  They are paid on a success only basis, re-offending of their charges leads to no/reduced payments to the resettlement brokers.
  • A structured resettlement environment provided by the local authority working closely with local health providers, probation staff, police and education/employment providers.

Our trial wing, Heron wing, will be opened in September of this year and we will see the first positive results in the early part of 2010.  We are confident that the re-offending rates of our cohort will compare favourably with that of the YOI leavers in general. 

Although the per capita cost of a YOI place is well over £30,000 per year the estimates of the wider cost, including policing, court costs, probation costs etc, indicate a figure closer to £80,000 per year.  The financial benefits of bring down that 79% re-offending rate that Humfrey identifies are clear.

This issue is too pressing for us to wait for the change of government, so here in City Hall we have got on the front foot and started a process that, I hope, will be replicated and expanded nationally.


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