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Youth Inclusion Programs to stop children from becoming criminals
Detail: Britain’s young offenders' institutions are overcrowded as twice as many under-18s are locked up now as a decade ago. The obvious solution is to stop children from becoming criminals. That is exactly what "youth offending teams" are doing in searching out children considered most likely to become criminals from Britain's poorest, most crime-plagued estates and preemptively intervening to stop these identified children from committing crimes.

Introduced in 2000, Youth Inclusion Programs (YIPs), running on 110 poor estates target a "top 50" troublesome 13- to 16-year-olds. Though the teenagers' involvement is voluntary, more than three-quarters take part, committing themselves to five hours a week of "appropriate intervention": activities designed to deflect them from crime and get them to attend school more often. Educational under-achievement and criminal activity are closely linked.

With the introduction of YIPs, arrest rate has fallen—of the 40% who had been arrested before joining the scheme, three-quarters were arrested for fewer offences afterwards. A similar share of those who had never been arrested retained blemish-free records. YIPs' success led the Youth Justice Board to create a similar project for younger children, Youth Inclusion and Support Panels (YISPs), to target disorderly eight- to 13-year-olds. The government believes that the earlier the intervention the better.

These projects have been criticized on the ground that by treating a group of children as possible future criminals, the projects risk stigmatizing children, some of whom have never committed a crime. Critics further say that it is the responsibility of the Youth Justice Board to provide mainstream services to meet the needs of all vulnerable children, whether they are at risk of becoming criminals or teenage mothers. Services are in need of reform if they are failing to address the needs of all children. Supporters of YIP however believe that YIPs only acknowledge the label “problem children” in order to peel it off.
Source: The Economist, September 9, 2006, U.S. Edition
Date: September 20 2006