Parents not prison

September 20, 2010, 11:55 PM GMT+0

The British public believes that better parental supervision is more effective than a prison sentence in preventing under-18s reoffending, and feels the age at which young people can be jailed should be higher than the law currently states, according to our poll.

Stopping recidivism

With regard to previously offending under-18 year olds, 82% of the population consider ‘better supervision by parents’ to be a ‘very’ or ‘somewhat effective’ measure in preventing further crime, compared to just 14% who see it as an ineffective measure. Treatment to tackle drug addiction (77%) or binge drinking (74%), and better mental healthcare (73%) are also considered successful measures in preventing under-18s reoffending.

Traditional punishments less effective

More traditional punishments such as a prison sentence and supervised unpaid community work are considered less effective. While 68% of the general public think time in a prison cell is an effective disincentive from further crime, a significant 27% consider it ineffective. The population is even less convinced by the efficacy of community service, judged as effective by 65% but ineffective by almost one third (31%).

Crime before age?

When it comes to the minimum age that young offenders (including perpetrators of violent crime) should be imprisoned, the public appear more divided, with results suggesting that many feel the law should be more lenient than currently stands. The current minimum age of imprisonment for a violent crime is ten, lower than the age selected by 62% of the population.
In fact, the largest segment (20%) of the population believe that the youngest age someone should be imprisoned at is between 14 and 15 years, while 18% selected 12–13 years, 17% 16–17 years, 17% 10–11 years and 6% 18-21 years. A perhaps surprising 13% of the population believe that offenders under the age of ten should be imprisoned.

Non-violent crime

But on the subject of non-violent crime only, the public is slightly more lenient, with 63% of the population nominating an age over 12 years, which is the current legal minimum age for imprisonment for a non-violent crime.

Given that state-run prisons are likely to be hit hard by the forthcoming public spending cuts, alternative measures to prevent under 18s offenders committing further crimes look sure to be an increasingly appealing option.

Survey details and full results
See the Prison Reform Trust Report