2. Persistent young offenders are not beyond help and special efforts should be made to rescue them from a life of crime. This will involve taking them from their home environment and friends, but this environment has often contributed to the criminality. Secure training units (juvenile detention centres) makes it clear to young offenders that the public will no longer tolerate their anti-social behaviour. Opposition to these proposals does not appear to come from the most vulnerable victims, but from certain sections of society that are to some extent insulated from persistent juvenile criminals, and that may be reflected in their views.
2. "Persistent" offenders cannot be differentiated from other children with profound social needs. Of the 531 persistent offenders (arrested 3 times or more; 1992, UK), 43% were "known" to social services and 2.5% were on the child protection register at the time of their arrest. Research in 3 UK cities showed that incarcerating the 20 most persistent offenders in each city would reduce the overall reported crime rate by less than 2% in the first 12 months. Thereafter, if those individuals are released, with predictable rates of re-offending, overall crime is predicted to rise. Young offenders are a threat to victims, they are disruptive to social life, they are at times a dangerous nuisance, but that does not justify millions of public expenditure on a flawed policy of increased custody which is already a predictable failure.
3. Locking children up is a Dickensian notion that focuses on punishment. These kids are causing trouble because they are in trouble. Their intention is not to commit a crime against the community, but to send a message that they need help. There are no evil children, just evil actions. Locking them up is the lazy way and the cheap way. Proper family care and therapy costs a fortune. In the USA we pay responsible older men in the neighbourhood US$35,000 a year to keep the boys out of prison.