No doubt that when the rioting blows over, the Government will have a lot of questions to answer on what they’re going to do with the rioters, how the police dealt with the riots, and how they’re going to put things right etc.. People aren’t likely to accept what the government says – nobody ever really likes government, and recalling Parliament was called by some, a waste of time.
As Nick Robinson said the Right will probably call for more prisons and harsher prison sentences, while the Left will argue that more money should be pumped into ‘youth services’ – neither of which will really deal with the current situation, or stop it happening again. We’ve built more prisons, and they’re now full, the change in prison sentences means that only long-term prison sentences make any real difference (short sentences just mean that once they’re released they offend again), and pumping money into youth services, clearly, hasn’t done that much good. From a financial point of view, we can afford to neither build more prisons or pump more money into services for the youth of Britain.
The rioters will, obviously or hopefully, serve some sort of prison sentence, but what happens when they are released and or go back to their day to day lives? They’re likely to offend again. 71% of 18-21 year-olds (2004) re-offend when they are released. So prison system needs to change to rehabilitate and reform those who serve prison sentences. Those without qualifications to go back into society and contribute, in any way, shape or form should receive some sort of education or training. In 2003 95% of prisoners needed help with basic literacy, and half of prisoners are at, or below, the level expected of an eleven year old in reading, 66% in numeracy, and 80% in writing – skills which are required in 96% of jobs.
Educating and rehabilitating prisoners doesn’t really conform with the successive government or society’s ‘tough on crime’ stance, but if we’re really going to make sure that prison works and see things improve then we need to make sure that prison works in the long term, not the short term.
“Official Rhondda Cynon Taff Statement”
Although the rioting in England was particularly bad in certain areas, there are a lot of contributory factors that can be brought in as to how it was handled. The police were not prepared or equipped to deal with this incident. This is due to cut backs in all public services including the Police and Youth Services.
However in Wales there was a totally different story due to the fact that Youth Services and intervention programme for young people are strongly supported in each local authority.
In RCT, Youth Workers were out on the streets in force visiting and supporting young people while providing intervention programmes within their locality.
“Prevention it appears in this case was much better than cure” with regards to prison sentencing and building more prisons, is this really the answer? And for Youth Services not being able to deal with the current situation as mentioned previously due to Youth Services interventions in Wales, there were very few incidents as Youth Workers were at hand to diffuse any potential situation occurring. (See Comments in South Wales Echo 11th August 2011)
As you have probably seen on the news recently that the people responsible for the riots have been handed very stiff prison sentences and quite rightly too. However had England had the necessary intervention programmes in place that Wales has, as the majority of English Youth Services have been decimated by cuts, then this could have probably been avoided.
On a closing note, RCT Services for Young People are working hard with individuals and groups in the community to address basic skills through various literacy and numeracy programmes that they deliver and facilitate. Had Welsh Youth Services suffered the cut back that their English colleagues had then you wouldn’t have the opportunity to voice your opinion in this way, as WAG and Local Council fund these websites and these sites would close down.