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Children and young people under the age of 16 who are considered to be in need of secure care will typically be placed in secure accommodation that is managed by social work services. Secure accommodation, because it is defined as provision for children and young people who are a risk to themselves as well as others, sits at the complex interface between needs and deeds approaches. Around 250 young people per year are placed in secure care in Scotland (Johnstone and Burman 2009). Two-thirds of these come through the CHS on a supervision order, which must be reviewed every 3 months, and most are placed for welfare reasons rather than offending. The remaining third of secure cases come through the courts and involve young people who have received a custodial sentence. Once they reach 16 years, convicted young people may be transferred to a young offender’s institution; however, since the introduction of GIRFEC the Scottish Government has extended the upper age for secure care in these cases up to 18 years of age.

Young Offender Institutions (YOI) house young prisoners (on direct sentence and on remand) up to the age of 21, thereafter they are moved to an adult prison at 21 years. Currently, there is one dedicated YOI and four further YOIs located within adult prisons at various locations across Scotland. Young people may sometimes be housed temporarily in other adult prisons across Scotland, although this practice is contrary to the UN CRC and reviewed by the Scottish Prison Service. The Prisons and Young Offenders Institutions (Scotland) Rules 2011 apply to prisons and YOIs and both are inspected regularly by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons for Scotland. Outcomes for young people who have been detained in custody tend to be poor. For this reason, the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) has committed to a new Vision for Young People in Custody (SPS 2014) and more broadly Unlocking Potential: Report of the Scottish Prison Service Organisational Review (SPS 2013) addressing work to address the causes of offending behaviour while young people are in a YOI and on release.

Along with England and Wales, Scotland has one of the highest imprisonment rates in the world. The average daily population in Scottish prisons rose continually from 1950 to 2011/12 and has only declined very slightly in recent years (Scottish Government 2015c). Figure 18.3 presents the average daily prison population for those aged under 21 in Scottish prisons over the last decade. It shows an increasing trend which peaked in 2009/10 before declining quite sharply over the last 4 years. However, if we were to look back over the last two decades the trend in imprisonment for this age group has been largely on the decline since the early 1990s (see McAra and McVie 2014).

The period of increase evident in Fig. 18.3 began during the punitive phase of juvenile justice, described earlier and was relatively short-lived; however, it did continue well into the period when the GIRFEC model was introduced which aimed to reduce the number of young people in the criminal justice system.

Average daily prison population of prisoners aged under 21 in Scotland, 2004/5 to 2013/14. Source

Figure 18.3. Average daily prison population of prisoners aged under 21 in Scotland, 2004/5 to 2013/14. Source: Scottish Government 2015c;25.

Indeed, there appears to have been a time lag before the trend in imprisonment began to decline in 2010/11. This may indicate that the behaviour of individuals who assign sentences, while moving in the right direction, has been much slower to respond to recent policy shifts than other parts of the juvenile and adult criminal justice system. It could also, of course, reflect a cohort of young people who were ‘caught up’ in the system during the punitive phase and who became labelled and criminalised, and were therefore over-represented in the prison system during this time (see McAra and McVie 2010, 2012).

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