Lords debate on the Criminal Justice System

News item posted: 30 October 2015

Turning Point’s Chief Executive and Chair of the Independent Commission on Mental Health and Policing, Lord Victor Adebowale CBE, joined other peers yesterday during a debate on addressing the problems of young people before they enter the criminal justice system.

The debate was proposed by Lord Harris of Haringey (Labour), author of The Harris Review: Changing Prisons, Saving Lives, published in July 2015.

Contributing to the debate, Victor said that management of young adults in the criminal justice system requires a distinct approach and those who remain in custody are some of the most vulnerable, troubled young adults – many of which have complex needs such as family discord, substance misuse, mental health difficulties and learning disabilities. They are also often victims of exploitation, abuse, trauma underpinned by poverty and inequality.

Victor called for a new way to break the cycle young people are often caught in, starting with family interventions and targeting support to children in care with personalised plans.

He said: “Statistics released by the Department for Education show that as of 31 March 2015 there were 260 looked-after children in England's Young Offender Institutes out of a custodial population of 706 – a proportion of 36.8 per cent.

“Fewer than 1% of all children in England are in care, but looked after children make up 33% of boys and 61% of girls in custody – this is a shocking statistic and points to a failure in the current system that hasn’t got to grips with this group.”

He went on to say that prison is overused due to the shortages in the health system to address people’s complex needs; a pattern that needs to stop. 

Lord Adebowale also drew on his experience as Chair of the Independent Commission on Mental Health and Policing drawing comparisons between the recommendations made and those of the Harris review, both pointing to greater need for interagency working, leadership and training for frontline staff. 

The debate can be watched on http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Lords