Key reforms: principles, costs, benefits, politics
The failures of our present responses to youth crime and antisocial behaviour are deep-rooted and far-reaching. Change will not happen overnight, but we may be approaching a unique moment when an opening appears in the battlements, and the process of change can begin. For reasons that are only partly understood, the long-established drop in crime has at last been reflected in a sharp decline in youth custody. This falling ‘market’ will soon highlight the need to reconsider plans for youth custodial institutions and buildings. In the aftermath of the 2010 general election, crime and justice are unlikely to be the focus of party competition. Expenditure on youth justice in England and Wales – already high by international standards – rose by 45 per cent in six years from 2000. The fiscal crisis will impose cuts on public expenditure whichever party is in power, while any alternative to the present high rate of youth custody would be cheaper and would offer better value for money.