A few weeks ago,an academic study revealed that the government's Intensive Surveillance and Supervision Programme to deal with young offenders is useless. Many of us working with young offenders in various contexts have known this for years. We see the proof of it every day. However, many working with the underclass in various contexts keep our mouths shut. To point out the obvious that the left-liberal approach to crime and disorder doesn't work is heresy and can have a detrimental effect on your career, but then again should you be doing a job you don't believe in? I know I won't last much longer that's for sure.
One lad called Perry, that I've worked with at a Supported Housing project was on an ISSP for driving recklessly whilst drunk in a stolen vehicle. It was his second offence of this exact nature in just six months. Now, Perry committed the second of these two offences just shy of his eighteenth birthday. By the time it went to court Perry was an adult in the eyes of the law but was treated as a juvenile as he had committed the offences when he was seventeen.
According to the Youth Justice Board, an ISSP is the most rigorous non-custodial sentence for young offenders. Now, I dont know about you but when I think of the word rigorous, in the context of dealing with criminal behaviour, I imagine some kind of negative consequence being visited upon the perpetrator in the interests of justice and also to act as a deterrent to committing future crimes. Sadly, this is not so, as the case of Perry so clearly illustrates.
Whilst on his ISSP, the surveillance component required that Perry was tagged and was on a strict curfew which meant he had to be in his room in the Supported Housing project every night by eight o'clock. When Perry failed to meet his curfew, as he often did, the electronic box in his room would send out a signal to the relevant authorities informing them of Perry's non compliance with his curfew. Oh by the way, the relevant authorities were not the police, but a private security company hundreds of miles away. They rang us at the Project, usually the morning after Perry had failed to abide by his curfew, in which time he could have committed a wide variety of offences. They then informed the Youth Offending Team and Perry went back to court. Just how is this close surveillance backed up by rigorous enforcement that reaasures the community? Yet it claims so on the Youth Justice Board's website (see previous link). People have committed horrendous crimes including murder whilst on ISSPs and their adult equivalent.
The judge actually praised Perry for only violating his curfew a few times and commended Perry for engaging fully with the supervision part of the programme. This involved dealing with the underlying causes ( a euphemism for excuses) for Perry's criminal lifestyle. To be fair, some of the supervision was positive, particularly getting Perry to succesfully engage on a literacy course. If our schools were properly run Perry would already know how to read but that's a whole other blog. Over to Frank Chalk.
The most shocking aspect of Perry's supervision was the amount of leisure and recreation that was being laid on for him by the Youth Offending Team and at the taxpyer's expense. Perry showed me a copy of his weekly Supervison rota. Everyday he would meet with his Youth Offending Team Support Worker who would take him on various outings and activities. These included, bowling, swimming, he was bought an annual membership for the local snooker club, taken to a stately home, taken on a naval battleship and everyday brought out for lunch to his favourite Scottish restaurant, Mcdonalds. This went on for the several months Perry was on the ISSP.
In the words of Perry, "I thought I was going to be punished, this is mad, I might steal another car to get back on it again," he half joked.