Placement of Young Offenders


Placement of young offenders far from families

When no alternative is appropriate, due to the seriousness of the offence, the history of the offender or the risk to the public, young people between the ages of 12 and 17 who offend will be sentenced to custody.  A recent report by the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (OFSTED) report has highlighted concerns regarding the placement of young people, including those sentenced to custody, in secured accommodation too far from home.

For young people between the ages of 12 and 17, sentenced by the Court, the most likely way they will become subject to secure accommodation is as a result of the imposition of a Detention and Training Order (DTO).

The DTO is a two part sentence, served partly in custody and partly under supervision in the community, with strong emphasis on training and rehabilitation. A DTO can be made for a minimum of four months up to a maximum of two years however a court can only issue a DTO if:

  • The offence would be punishable with imprisonment in the case of a person aged 21 or over; and
  • The Court decides only a custodial sentence is appropriate to reflect the seriousness of the offence; and
  • Where a person in aged 12-15 at the time of the conviction, that he or she is a persistent offender.

Young people under the age of 18 who are found guilty of the most serious crimes, for which an adult could receive at least 14 years imprisonment, can be sentenced for longer periodsunder Section 91 of the Powers of the Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000, or for an indeterminate period under s90 of the same act known as “Detention at Her Majesty’s Pleasure” for murder.

There are three types of accommodation for housing a detained young person:

Young offenders’ institutions (YOIs)

Young offender institutions are run by the Prison Service. Boys aged 15-17 are held in juvenile-only buildings, or on sites shared with, but separate from, YOIs for 18-21 year olds.

Young female offenders are placed in self-contained girls’ units attached to existing female institutions, but these units work in the same way as young offender institutions. Offenders receive up to 25 hours of education every week, which includes courses and programmes looking at improving behavior.


Secure training centers (STCs)

These centers provide secure accommodation for offenders up to the age of 17. They are usually smaller than young offenders’ institutions and provide education and vocational training, as well as focusing on addressing someone’s behavior. People in STCs get up to 30 hours of education every week, giving them the skills and qualifications they need to stop offending once they leave the centre.


Secure children’s homes

These homes are run by local authorities and accommodate the most vulnerable young offenders between the ages of 12 and 14, though girls may be accomodated up to the age of 16. Boys will only be placed into such a setting up to the age of 16 if they have been assessed as vulnerable.


The Youth Justice Board is responsible for carrying out an assessment to determine placement depending on age, sex, level of vulnerability and individual needs. For those young people remanded into secure accommodation this decision rests with the local authority with the assistance of the Youth Justice Board.

Prior to 2009 the Youth Justice Board was targeted with ensuring that 90% of those young people placed into secured accommodation would still be within 50 miles of home. This target was discontinued in 2009, resulting in more and more young people being placed further from home. Remaining close to home maintains important ties with families, professionals that will be responsible for supervision of licences in the community and with the educational and training opportunities they will need on discharge. One parent cited in the report had a round trip of 400 miles to visit their child, whilst another had to travel 140 miles. Many parents with other siblings simply do not have the time or resources to travel long distances to maintain contact.

For young people who are moved long distances to unfamiliar environments with limited family visits, adaption can be difficult and may be linked to re-offending. As John Goldup from OFSTEAD observes; “while a wide range of factors may lead to offending behaviour, it is clear that young people’s chances of avoiding re-offending are  damaged if they lose contact with their families, with professionals who are trying to work with them and with the education and training opportunities they will need on discharge”.

At Hine Solicitors our prison law team are experienced practitioners who are able to assist in any prison law issue including the categorisation and reallocation of prisoners.  If you need advice about any prison law matter please contact our prison law team today.

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