Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/535/4167
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).
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.
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:
- The right to a high quality training, job and/or college place for every school leaver.
- Free, high-quality youth facilities in every community.
- Democratic community action to prevent crime.
- Community control of the police to ensure they work with and implement the policing priorities advocated by local communities.
- Cut across drug-related crime by providing treatment, maintenance and counselling facilities for all heroin addicts, including support services for their families.
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.(http://www.communitycare.co.uk/Articles/ 2008/05/22/108253/labour-misses-youth-crime-targets.html)
In The Socialist 28 May 2008:
Socialist Party campaigns
Socialist Party women
Youth and crime
Socialist Party feature
International socialist analysis
Socialist Party review
Socialist Party workplace news