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From The Socialist newspaper, 28 May 2008


'Youth justice'

Repressive measures do not work

Despite spending billions on 'youth justice' the government has failed to stem youth crime, a new report shows ('Ten years of Labour's youth justice reforms: an independent audit', Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, 21/05/08).

Pete Mason

Nearly all the government's targets have not been met, the report says, while "far more children have been criminalised and imprisoned". Yet spending has increased by nearly a half while other vital services have faced cuts.

This was predicted and surprises no-one who has studied the problems of crime. The number of children locked up increased by 8% since March 2005. Imprisoning young people or sending them to "boot camps" ensures in eight out of ten cases they re-offend, higher than amongst the adult population according to the government's own figures. Labour's new initiatives have a 90% re-offending rate. Prisons in particular are 'universities of crime'.

There are people suffering as victims of crime every day and we are all horrified at the rising number of deaths of young people due to knife attacks. Yet when right-wing newspapers, judges and the Thatcherite Labour and Tory parties demand revenge for youth crime, their solution of longer and harsher sentencing creates the hardened master criminals of the future. This 'revenge' brings about a more violent society.

Community sentencing

In a government sponsored survey of attitudes to non-violent crimes last year, an overwhelming majority of respondents (94%) said the most important thing to them was that the offender did not do it again.

The Ministry of Justice - showing that one hand contradicts the other - said: "These findings support the view of eight in ten (81%) victims in the UK who would be in favour of community sentences if they prevent an offender from re-offending. And there is data to suggest they do; evidence has found that offenders who commenced a community sentence in the first quarter of 2004 had lower re-offending rates than predicted" (Victims of crime want punishment, 16 November 2007).

In the 1950s the youth 'boot camps' of the day, borstals, produced the master criminals of that generation, such as the Great Train Robbers. Like today's attempts, borstals were a failure and were closed down.

Crime rates were much lower in the post-war boom period and the reasons are transparent. Employment was more secure and conditions at work were improving. There was more social welfare provision and other 'safety nets' in place - the 'nanny state' so loathed by the right wing press - if people suffered a sudden loss of employment or family break up.

In the 1960s young people grew up with brothers and sisters who had good, secure jobs or apprenticeships. There were works' football teams and social clubs, as well as youth facilities, less pressure from testing at school, and so forth. Crime always falls if the conditions of the population as a whole improve.

But methods of providing convicted young criminals with skills and experiences which help to raise their sights, despite their high success rates, are castigated by the press and the 'criminal fraternity' running society - the ruling class.

The mother of the murdered teenager Jimmy Mizen said: "There's so much anger in this world and it's anger that's killed my son. If I am angry then I am exactly the same as this man. We have got to get rid of this anger, we have just got to." How can this be done?

Capitalist society rules by the rod to guard its legalised theft of the products of our working lives. It cannot even provide the decent jobs and services without which crime will always be with us. Only a socialist world will end the violent capitalist world of exploitation, wars and terror which, as though through a distorted lens, in various ways increases the violence on the streets today.

We must demand:

Note: Since 2002, actual spending on the 'youth justice system' in England and Wales has totalled 2.9bn, including a total spend in 2006-7 of 648.5m.( 2008/05/22/108253/labour-misses-youth-crime-targets.html)

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In The Socialist 28 May 2008:

Build A New Workers' Party

Crewe and Nantwich 'no-win' by-election: Why New Labour lost

I told my union: "We need a new workers' party"

Westminster parties are remote from life

Campaign for a new workers' party: conference 2008

MPs' expensive expenses

Socialist Party campaigns

Tax the rich not the poor!

Exeter bomb explosion: Workers' unity needed against terrorism, war and deprivation

Johnson's Prince of Darkness

Them & Us

Greenwich - save our centres

Socialist Party women

Women welcome abortion rights victory: Now fight to extend rights

Youth and crime

Home secretary: "Tough on crime"...but not the causes

'Youth justice': repressive measures do not work

Socialist Party feature

'Counter-terrorism' legislation threatens our democratic rights

International socialist analysis

South Africa: Attacks on refugees and migrants reveal capitalism's barbaric underbelly

Socialist Party review

The Wire - Reviewed by Michael Wrack

Socialist Party workplace news

PCS conference: More battles ahead on pay and jobs

Usdaw general secretary election: Members want democratic debate

Industrial news in brief


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