Young Behind Bars

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The 2014 Government Paper 'Transforming Youth Custody' laid out plans for the first Pathfinder Secure College next to the Glen Parva Prison in Leicestershire. There will be a head teacher at the helm and other fortified colleges will follow, eventually replacing all existing youth offending provision apart from the secure children's homes

At present in the UK young people receive about 12 hours of education a week, with research showing that over half of the 15-17 year olds had literacy and numeracy levels of 7-11 year old children. More than 80 per cent had been excluded from school at some point and re-offending rates are around 71 per cent 12 months after release

Claims that education could be the key to reducing this come from researchers in Missouri, where residential training centres provide intensive education alongside life skills and mentoring. Winifred hears from offenders there, who move between different secure categories linked around a college education. It isn't a cheap option, at £42,000 a head, but the re-offending rate in follow up studies has been found to be 16 per cent.

America is one of the only countries with an incarceration rate higher than the UK's: here we lock up less young people now than we did a decade ago, but still have about 1,300 in custody. In Finland, with just a dozen prisoners under 18, there has always been a much bigger emphasis on education, provided in six state run reformatories. It's a similar picture in Norway, with youth centres introduced in 2011 for those committing serious crimes.

With access to the education currently going on in prisons Winifred Robinson considers how the changes will work. There's a year to get the UK's first fortified college up and running but what do those most directly affected - the young offenders and their families - feel about what is planned and how have pressure groups and even local people, reacted?