The Curmudgeon


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Criminal Resorts

Last year, the children's charity Barnardo's reported that Britain was imprisoning more children than any European country except Russia and Ukraine. This year, the children's charity Barnardo's reports that more than a third of twelve-to-fourteen-year-olds who are imprisoned are probably being imprisoned illegally.

The Government, with its usual clarity of thought and speech, and doubtless its usual concern for the flexibilitisation of the offender management market, has specified that children should be given custodial sentences only as a "last resort", but has not bothered to specify what other resorts must be eliminated beforehand. "We are pleased this report recognises our clear policy that under-18s should only be locked up as a last resort, especially in the case of younger children," said a spokesbeing for the Ministry of Incarceration and Deportation. "It is a fundamental part of the justice system that individual sentencing decisions are a matter for the independent judiciary"; of course we all know how New New Labour treasures the idea of an independent judiciary. In some cases the independent judiciary's individual definition of "last resort" has been commendably market-oriented: some children are being put in prison because there are not enough resources to put them in "Community Payback" jackets. The spokesbeing for the Ministry of Incarceration and Deportation advertised the "range of tough community sentences available for young offenders", though apparently not available to those who are responsible for seeing the sentences enforced; and noted that "latest statistics show that 97% of under-18s do not receive a custodial sentence", which apparently disposes of the argument that any of the three per cent who do receive a custodial sentence should have been treated otherwise.

Half of those surveyed were victims of abuse, and more than a third were living with an adult criminal; both situations which a spell in the clink will ameliorate no end.


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