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First-time jail figure increases

The number of young men jailed for the first time rose by more than a third last year, figures have showed.

More than half of the young men, 53%, said it was their first time in custody, up from 39% in 2009/10, the annual review of children and young people in custody showed.

Nick Hardwick, the chief inspector of prisons, added that conditions for young people in jail were deteriorating, with fewer offenders saying they felt safe on their first night behind bars last year.

Only 79% of young men said they felt safe on their first night, down from 82% in 2009/10, and just 63% of young men thought they were treated with respect by staff, down from 69% the previous year and an average of 76% between 2004 and 2008.

Young men also reported more victimisation by staff, with racial or ethnic abuse up to 5% from 3% in 2009/10. The study showed fewer young men thought they could tell someone if they were being victimised, down from 62% to 56%, or believed a member of staff would take it seriously if they did, down from 40% to 31%.

Only 67% said they were treated well or very well in the reception of the young offenders institution, down from 72% the previous year, and only 79% said they were searched in an "understanding way", down from 83% the previous year.

While the overall number of children and young people in custody continued to fall during 2010-11 from 1,977 to 1,822, a "changing profile of the children and young people in custody" was emerging, the inspectors said.

The proportion of black and minority ethnic young men, already over-represented, rose to 39% from 33% the previous year, while the number of foreign national young men rose from 4% to 6% and the number who identified themselves as Muslim hit 16% from 13%.

The report was based on the experiences of 1,115 men aged 15-18 in all nine establishments and 47 young women aged 15-18 in all four establishments in which they were held between April 1 2010 and March 31 2011.

Nick Hardwick, the chief inspector of prisons, said: "This report has highlighted some deterioration in children and young people's experience of custody. Despite the falling numbers, this population has well-defined vulnerability and increasing numbers within minority groups. The need, therefore, to provide these young people with support during their time in custody and in preparation for release is as great as ever."


From Belfast Telegraph