HC Deb 22 January 1998 vol 304 cc633-4W
Mrs. Butler

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has to continue the operation of the experimental regime at Colchester Young Offenders Institution. [25491]

Ms Quin

The Government are determined to pursue an active regime in Young Offender Institutions (YOIs) as part of their commitment to focus the youth justice system on the prevention of offending by young people. Statutory provision for this is contained in the Crime and Disorder Bill.

We are therefore continuing the experimental "high intensity training" regime which the previous Administration established at Thorn Cross YOI. Although, at £22,700 per place, this regime is more expensive than the cost of a typical YOI regime at £17,300 per place, the Thorn Cross programme has been shown to have a more sharply focused and better integrated set of activities. We believe therefore that Thorn Cross represents value for money.

However, we have been unable to reach the same conclusion with Colchester. Colchester YOI opened on 20 February 1997, initially for one year. The costs per place at Colchester, at £31,300, have been running at nearly twice those for a typical YOI and nearly £9,000 more than those at Thorn Cross. The Colchester regime has encouraged positive change in attitudes amongst young offenders but the available evaluation has not supported the contention that it has been more effective in preventing re-offending than other initiatives.

In view of this, and of the very high costs, we have concluded that Colchester YOI does not represent value for money. It will therefore close on 31 March 1998.

This decision in no way reflects on the hard work and commitment of the staff who have been involved with the experiment and to whom I pay tribute. Their work will assist us in improving regimes at other YOIs. We shall be using for this purpose the resources which we have saved from the closure of Colchester.