Reoffend too often

récidive

La violence chez les jeunes au Royaume-Uni n’est certes pas un sujet d’actualité, et tend même à diminuer, mais le pays reste confronté à un problème récurrent et difficile à neutraliser : la récidive.

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To start the study on a positive point, the average number of young people entering the youth justice system is decreasing: in 2009, 62,500 young Britons had problems with the justice system, whereas 45,500 did in 2013; and the average number of young Britons in custody in 2011 was 17% lower than that of 2009.

But the main problem of the United Kingdom’s legal system is reoffending. A reoffender is not someone who “just” goes to the court after his/her release from custody, it is more specific: a reoffender is someone who repeats exactly the same offense within the next 5 years after his/her release from custody. This does not sound very different but this is actually much more serious insofar as the rate of young reoffenders in the UK is not only very high, but also increasing.

Reoffending rates have barely changed in a decade, and are now rising. In 2014 more than one in four criminals has reoffended within a year, which is quite high, but three fourths of the young people who went to custody in the UK have reoffended within the 12 next months after the end of their sentence.

Unfortunately, the social background plays an important role because these young reoffenders are mostly young people who have grown in poor and violent environments, in which you feel like the “coolest” when you go to custody, you feel respected (and you are, indeed) – even if nobody actually cares and you finally find yourself regarded as “rubbish” by the whole society. That is why some of these young reoffenders do not feel good when they go back to “normal” life because they are used to jail, especially as they went to custody during their teenage years – as explained in this video:

http://www.vice.com/en_uk/video/young-reoffenders-full-length-311

The statistics underline the long-term ineffectiveness of the criminal justice system at diverting persistent offenders from a life of crime. Of those given a community punishment or sent to prison, 74% are convicted of another crime within nine years,“according to the Guardian. To face the problem of violence and reoffending, the criminal justice system already hardened in 1997 with the victory of Labour: the minimum age to go to prison was lowered to 10 – the legal judicial majority remains fixed at 18. It is the lowest age in the European Union and this measure raises issues regarding the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

prisonenfant

Minors do not have the same punishments as adults, but only 17 % of them are placed in specialised centres, against 83 % in detention centres for minors.

Furthermore recidivist minors are sometimes placed in prisons for adults. But, as shown in the documentary, young recidivist have already been to prison several times and prisons for adults do not discourage second offences. With these numerous prison sentences, young offenders get used to more violence, which contributes to increasing imprisonment rates: with 85 000 prisoners, England and Wales have one of the highest rate in Europe – and it is twice as high as in 1992. Moreover, reoffending has risen fast among young girls.

The British government is aware of the problem, but in spite of the numerous reforms of the prison system, reoffense remains a very sad reality, especially when it concerns the young. One of the solutions considered would be the creation of “secure colleges”, based on a better education for the young offenders. Nevertheless, this seems a little bit limited. Specialised centres already exist in England and in Wales but they welcome only a small minority of the young sentenced to prison. Furthermore, when it comes to reoffending, the penal system is even harder and tends to punish the young with even harsher sentences, for example by placing them in prisons for adults. The whole system is sadly counterproductive.

Gabrielle BENZIMRA & Louis-Van VU-NGOC

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