Many members of Backstop’s Recruitment Team have experience of working in Youth Justice/Probation. However we also have some new team members with experience in other areas, and for those of us who fall into that category a workshop on Youth Justice was arranged by the company last week. The aim of the workshop was to help expand our general knowledge of the Youth justice system, and also to allow us to get a personalised view on the working ways of a YOT and the daily tasks and challenges it involves.
The workshop was led by one of our active locums who is currently working as a YOT officer. During the workshop, we were given a multiple choice quiz on youth crime –the aim of which seemed simple enough. We had 10 questions, and we were to try to get as many right as possible. The questions ranged from guessing what the age of criminal responsibility is, to confirming what percentage of young people re-offend one year after being released from custody. Now for those who work in the system daily, no doubt these may be figures that would be eternally entrenched in your mind, and although we may not have necessarily as much practical experience as the YOT officers we recruit, we were still very much surprised when the results were tallied up, and it seemed not one of us was able to get more than 4 questions out of 10. (Bravo to Leila who achieved 4 out of 10).
Now without wanting to sound like I’m excusing our supposedly sub – standard knowledge on Youth crime facts and figures, what we did find out later confirmed to us how much our perception on certain subjects were so heavily influenced and affected by the daily media barrage we receive on the goings on within the Youth Crime scene. We were highly surprised that the percentage of detected crime committed by young people (aged 17 and under) stood at 11 % (a lot less than we expected, I guessed 23%) and certainly were no doubt quite shocked to find out that whereas black young offenders accounted for 6 percent of total offences in 2004-5, they received 11.6 percent of total custodial sentences. Another figure that was quite astounding was the percentage of young people who re-offend after 1 year of release. This figure stands currently at 80%, which gave us a bit more insight into the challenges facing the Youth Justice Board in the UK in today’s climate.
All these facts and figures got me and I’m sure the rest of the team thinking about how easily we could be led to accept certain “ideas” about youth crime, rather than investigating further ourselves , and making sure we were not in the habit of making generalist assumptions. With front page titles such as “Wave of Youth Crime sweeping the city” followed with countless photographs of rather intimidating looking “hooded” youths, bombarding us weekly, in the news paper or other forms of media, its no wonder so many of us in the public hold these rather “unfounded” views on what the current climate must be. Thanks to this workshop, I certainly learnt to start getting in the habit of “educating myself” and trying to find out as much truth on these matters as possible before jumping to conclusions. Although I still believe the media have a duty to report on these incidents, I am a lot more aware of the damage that is too easily done when reporting in such a manner that leads to any part of the population being misrepresented.