Responding to the government's announcement of changes to the youth custodial estate (17 January), Frances Crook, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said:

"This government has been very successful at reducing the number of children sent to prison. They have recognised that the best place for children to move away from crime is in the community.

"Building a 'secure college' replicates the mistakes of the past. Privately-run 'secure training centres' were designed to educate, yet they have failed to reduce reoffending and children have died within their walls. Building a larger version of this failed model and calling it a 'fortified school' will lead to more crime and increased costs. Indeed, the definition of madness is to do the same thing again and again and expect a different result.

Prison Bars by Andrew bardwell via Wikimedia Commons

Prison Bars by Andrew Bardwell

"The millions of pounds spent on this new facility would be better invested in community support for children and recognising the reality of why children offend.

"Children in prison have a range of complex needs, including mental health problems, learning difficulties, self-harm, and histories of abuse and neglect. Low levels of education must be seen as symptoms of these underlying problems. Tackling the fact so many children in custody have been excluded from school in the first place would be more likely to produce the positive outcomes we all want to see.

"The government's good work in reducing the number of children in prison should be continued, enabling them to concentrate on providing additional support for the very small number of children who actually need to be in custody."

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