Crime and PunishmentPunishing young offenders Return to the main page
Case Study 1  -  What is the best way of dealing with young offenders? Task Glossary
   
 

By the late 19th century most people agreed that there should be a separate system of trial and punishment for young people (see Gallery Punishment 1750-1900). The 20th century saw this put into effect.
In 1902 the first Borstal was opened in Kent, soon followed by others. Their purpose was clearly to try to reform the individual by a mixture of training and care by a committed staff. In many ways they were run like a boarding public school, with house competitions and lots of sport the usual sentence was "six months to two years" -that is, offenders could be released after six months if the Borstal staff thought they were ready. If they were not, the offender could be obliged to stay for up to two years.
In 1908 totally separate Juvenile courts were established, with different procedures and punishments. In 1932 approved schools were started for offenders under 15.
In the last quarter of the 20th century the tide turned against the Borstal approach. There was an increase in crime, particularly youth crime, and public opinion was more interested in seeing the offenders punished. The re-offending rate of those leaving Borstal was fairly high, so their success was in doubt. Others were critical of the "six months to two years" sentence leaving too much power in the hands of Borstal staff. In 1982 they were closed down, replaced by Youth Detention Centres, with fixed term sentences. These had a much tougher régime, called a "short, sharp, shock". However, re-offending rates from these places was just as high as from Borstals.

 
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