Why learning matters for young adults: MoJ consultation response

20 Dec 2013

PET has today expressed its concern about Government plans to move all 18-20 year olds from young offenders institutes (YOIs) to adult prisons.

The charity’s response to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ)’s consultation Transforming Management of Young Adults in Custody asks for more evidence to show that this will lead to a reduction in reoffending or violence and increased safety in prisons.

PET Chief Executive, Rod Clark, said: “There are indisputably high levels of violence in YOIs but how can we be sure the problem doesn’t just get transferred to adult prisons? In cases where young people have already been moved this year they have been involved in a high number of assaults and we have also heard about gang-related incidents occurring in classrooms, which then puts them off doing any education.

“We are concerned that if the decision to move all 18 year olds to adult prisons has been made simply to save money then it will be at the very least counter productive and at worst dangerous."

"Until there is a solid, evidence-based plan for how to deliver the higher level of support young people need, these plans should not go ahead."

"We are also surprised to see no mention of learning in the consultation proposals. Earlier this year we praised the Government for saying it wanted to put education at the heart of the youth estate, but more must be done to rehabilitate all prisoners effectively through learning and young adults in particular. If not, we will have a situation where once a prisoner turns 18 they will suddenly drop off the education radar.”

Although the MoJ says the changes will improve the safety of prisoners and staff, this is based on anecdote rather than fact as statistics show assaults involving young people in adult prisons are high. The plans have also been designed before the Government’s own review of custodial violence that is due to report back early next year.

The decision was announced last month even though the MoJ is yet to publish its plans for an earlier consultation on under 18s within the Youth Justice System, which PET responded to in April 2013.

Among this group, 58% of young ex-prisoners reoffended within a year, compared with 46.9% of adults. Whilst 18 to 24 year olds account for only one in 10 of the UK population, they account for a third of those sentenced to prison each year, a third of the probation service caseload and a third of the total economic and social costs of crime.

Research shows that young adults have the largest potential to change their lives and “grow out of crime”, but inappropriate interventions can halt this desistance process. In addition, this group are likely to require more one-to-one support in the adult estate where they may be more vulnerable due to their age and maturity to prevent violence or self-harm.

In PET’s response to the previous consultation on under 18s, Transforming Youth Custody: Putting education at the heart of detention we stated that whilst we welcome the focus on education for this group we would like to see support for lifelong learning for all prisoners.

Editor's Notes

Case studies and interviews with former prisoners whose lives have been transformed by education are available on request.

For interviews, photos or further information please contact Susannah Henty, Media Manager: Susannah@prisonerseducation.org.uk; 020 8648 7760 or visit www.prisonerseducation.org.uk

About PET

Since 1989, Prisoners' Education Trust (PET) has supported prisoners to engage in rehabilitation through learning. The charity does this by providing advice and funding for approximately 2,000 people per year for distance learning courses in subjects and levels not generally available in prisons. PET also carries out research, informed by prisoner learners, to improve prison education policies.