Youth justice

Mad dash for Prime Minister’s Questions; I still haven’t been pulled out of the weekly ballot for a PMQ (that’s how most MPs get to ask the Prime Minister a question – names go in a hat and are pulled out at random). Then off to Cardiff to the Youth Justice Conference. I am part of a panel of experts speaking and answering questions as the last session of the day. It was a huge affair – and Blair (Tony) had sent a video message to the 800+ attendees and Cameron will be there tomorrow for a keynote speech – hopefully still hugging hoodies.

On the panel – the Lord Chief Justice, the Welsh Assembly Member, the Chief Constable and myself were all roughly singing from the same hymn sheet. We are all sick to death of this ‘tough’ versus ‘soft’ political environment where in reality – it’s what works that matters. It was clear from the panellists and the whole audience that those in the field are desperate to move away from the political rhetoric and get on with what works – which often is community sentencing or secure children’s units rather than crime school (prison). It has to be about changing behaviour not mouthing empty slogans. The Chief Justice was saying that the problem is that often people think community sentencing is a soft option – but it isn’t. There is a project in Chard where community sentencing has meant that the re-offending rate is just 5%. Compare that with the 70% for young males coming out of prison. No contest!